“Be where you are otherwise you will miss your life.” – Buddha
I’ve known about mindfulness and I thought I did okay at it. I live in the present moment and I try to enjoy things with a child-like glee—or so I thought. Then I heard and saw someone who excelled at it … and it blew my mind.
I’m emotional and sometimes feelings swamp me – negative and positive emotions. When this happens, my mind goes at a crazy rate of knots. Memories flood in taking me back to similar circumstances and events. I might then get multiple scenarios of what if as I play out a heap of options in my head. I go beyond my reactions and circumstances to include those of other people involved. I may project into the future and imagine what a changed life might be like, what else may now happen, and how things might work out for everyone involved. Amid the crazy, swirling emotions and rampaging thoughts, I try to survive whatever event it may be with dignity. Ha! I always end up overwhelmed and dignity flies out the window.
I thought this was normal, so imagine my surprise when my favorite sportsperson (I’m a sports tragic) was going through massive emotional circumstances—leaving the club he’d always played for, moving cities, getting married, and preparing for a grand final—instead of being overwhelmed, he focused his thoughts on the task at hand, whether that was packing a box, answering a question, or training.
Mindfulness in practice.
His composure made me realize how much I sucked at it. I had none of that mind control. I was struggling as I imagined what he was going through. There was no way I could focus on one task and not think about the future. Besides, as I did a task, I’d be wondering if it was the last time that I would ever do that and how I felt about that, would I miss it, would others miss me, etc.
I went out and bought Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the present moment – and your life. I devoured it, learning many tools and techniques I had missed. There has been a lot of improvement but I’m nowhere near the skill level of my sporting hero. I can attend events where I would have been overwhelmed in the past, such as at a funeral. I now stop imagining everyone’s life changing, stop imagining their sorrow, stop wondering how life will turn out, and stop pulling every memory of previous funerals and grief. I simply allow myself to feel my emotion in that moment.
This mindset makes a big difference to my writing. I focus on writing my story and doing the best I can, today, for these characters. I don’t compare them with previous characters. I don’t compare my writing today with yesterday, last month, last year. There’s no projecting into the future, wondering if my publisher or readers will like my story. I keep my mind in the present moment, and the scene, or sentence, I’m writing.
Of course, I fail often. My mind wonders and wanders constantly, and that’s okay because I notice it now and I know how to breathe and call my attention back to this moment. I like to talk to myself, mostly silently, so I might say, “Hey, don’t stress about what your publisher’s going to think; you’ve got to get the damn thing written first so let’s focus on that now.” And my mind laughs and focuses. If I’m lucky, I get lost in the writing and I’m totally nailing mindfulness.
For complete transparency, yes, I’m embarrassed that I’ve spent a chunk of my life not knowing how to control my own brain. I support an Aussie program that’s trying to get mindfulness taught in all schools, so kids can learn these simple techniques to help them in life. I believe it’s that valuable.
Mindfulness is about much more than helping with creativity. It assists with everyday life and helps me to navigate the stresses of living without getting completely frazzled and lost in looping memories and projections. If you’re interested in the technique, there are heaps of apps that help by reminding you to be mindful.
Creative Writing Energy: Tools to Access Your Higher-Creative Mind will give you a range of alternative methods and ideas that you can use to access your higher-creative mind. That part of yourself that remains hidden and unexplored, and brimming with story ideas and characters you have yet to meet. Muse or no muse.