Calgon, Take Me Away

The restaurant review moguls, Nina and Tim Zagat, developed the go-to resource for dining in New York City more than 30 years ago. This iconic red book is a staple in many city apartments and has since expanded to almost 50 cities around the world. It’s arranged by cuisine, neighborhood and a plethora of useful and clever categories including “transporting experience.”

Ah, to be transported. That feeling of being figuratively carried or moved from one place to another – of being enraptured or impassioned – carried away by a strong emotion. Yes, please.

When you think of a transporting experience, what comes to mind? For me:

To name but a few.

Several years ago I took an 8-week course in mindfulness, a form of meditation made famous by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The technique is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and it offers a kind of transporting experience of its own in that it’s so far from where most of us usually dwell.

Quieting the monkey mind is no small task, but the benefits are deep and wide. One struggle I have is remembering to be mindful. It’s not like exercising, for example, which I sometimes opt out of because I’m tired or busy or injured. I can’t say as I’ve ever “forgotten” to work out, but I can go weeks and weeks without remembering my intention to practice mindfulness.

According to Kabat-Zinn, the “attitudinal foundations” of mindfulness are:

  1. Trust – cultivating a basic trust in your own self, feelings and intuitions. Realizing that inherent already within you is everything we need for wholeness and healing.
  2. Non-judging – recognizing our constant stream of judgments can liberate us from the constant stream of reactions to that which we judge.
  3. Acceptance – a willingness to see in this moment things as they are. In fact, with a clear picture of things as they are, you are more likely to know what to do and to have an inner conviction to act appropriately.
  4. Patience – allowing things to unfold in their own time. Even being patient with our judging selves.
  5. Non-striving – learning to be non-goal oriented within the practice.
  6. Letting go/Letting be – noticing both the good and bad thoughts/feelings that our minds cling to, and learning to let go and see beyond just the thoughts/feelings.
  7. Beginner’s Mind – seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.

I feel more centered just reading that list. You?

There is so much emphasis on living in the present moment and yet it eludes us much of the time. Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and later A New Earth thrust this concept into the mainstream (a la Oprah). While I believe we intellectually understand that present-based awareness is one of the major keys to happiness, many of us spend an exorbitant amount of time either rehashing the past or rehearsing the future. I know I do.

At it’s simplest, mindfulness is about noticing. But there is nothing simple about noticing our thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations with curiosity and without judgment as they are happening. Sadly, we are too busy zipping from one thing to the next to notice how much autopilot we employ.

Imagine carving out a little pocket of peace for yourself each day. Doesn’t that sound inviting? The mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe offers a 10-minute primer in his extremely popular TED talk, and for those ready to dive in, there’s an app for that! It’s called Headspace and claims to be “meditation made simple.” Best yet, in only 10 minutes per day.

I’ve recently signed up for the free 10-day trial…again. Join me?

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