I read a text on “mindfulness” recently that suggested readers surround themselves with pillows at bedtime, and imagine the pillows are another person cuddling them. In another chapter, a reference to a woman who was cutting herself was included as an example of the healing potential of meditation.
Perhaps it’s the curse of a creative, or more likely, an experienced mind, that I felt immediately sad for those who were being counseled to personify pillows, as I am certain they would wake up to the reality of cool linen and soft stuffing rather than a human presence, and their loneliness would only intensify. I felt intense pain for the one who was harming herself, and was unable to purge her from my mind.
I reminded myself these examples were fictional scenarios (offered by a psychotherapist) and relegated them to my mental incinerator, where they were mercifully destroyed.
When I try to push away my thoughts, as the the author of the text advised, they become more insistent. The cobweb in the corner near the door has been swept away, but the remaining leaves on the maple outside my window will fall soon.
“Going to a happy place,” as one author recommended, makes me wish I could return to a particular moment, and the realization decades have passed since then invokes grief that I’m no longer young, and the places and people that comprise those memories have changed. “A happy place” is not an abstract concept, but a physical location, where I would like to return, but can’t.
Focusing on my breath only makes me more conscious of my racing heartbeat and the recognition I am engaging in this exercise to calm myself, and the knowledge I need to calm myself only makes me more anxious.
Is it possible to be too aware of my surroundings, too mindful?
I prefer to daydream for a few minutes each day.
I can easily conjure scenarios in my imagination. I can feel the muscles in my thighs and calves ache as I climb a steep trail, feel the cool breeze and the warmth of the sand beneath me as I lie on a beach, stand atop a rocky crag, admire the snowy peaks beyond and smell the pine forest from which I’ve just emerged.
I have done all these things, and these memories meld into a fantasy that is more comforting than counting my breaths and listening to the furnace whoosh on. Perhaps it’s because I’m constantly, and acutely, aware of my surroundings. The leaves that have accumulated beneath the maple, as well as those that still cling to its branches, will need to be ushered to the curb. The roses have stopped blooming and need to be pruned.
In late autumn, life slows down. The crickets and toads rarely chirp. The summer tomatoes are gone.
Perhaps I’m already mindful.