Monday, August 18, 2008

Background Noise

A typical morning of a typical day.

Running low on coffee--need to stop by Central Market on my way back from the optometrist. Wonder if I can use my Foodie Coupon for coffee? I should probably pick up a few other things while I'm there. . .

And I'm off and running. Not physically, mind you, god forbid, but mentally running. The constant stream of chatter runs and runs. Update the calendar. Can I squeeze in that social? Will my order be in at the vegetable co-op on Wednesday? Keep an ear out for the kettle. Did I endorse her check? What's for breakfast? Need to vacuum later. Phone meeting tomorrow. Afternoon is full. Need to leave in 20 minutes. . .

It's the normal background noise of a busy day. Perhaps your script is strikingly similar. Sometimes, the chatter becomes the "monkey mind" of the ego, occupied with gossip, or worry, always projecting into the past or future, hoping to rob you of this present moment. If it can keep you on the mental treadmill, you might not even notice.

A number of techniques exist if you want to "clear your mind." Some people find that exercise helps, whether it's a vigorous workout at the gym, or a walk around the neighborhood. Some are disciplined about a quiet time of prayer or meditation each day. I like to write, to dump out all the thoughts, and then sit for awhile. I also rely on my Feldenkrais work.

After an Awareness Through Movement class, students often remark about their sense of time. "I can't believe that's been 45 minutes," they'll say. "The time just flew!" Sometimes, someone says, "I think I kind of floated off. Time just stood still for awhile. What day is it?" They also remark about feeling relaxed, rested, refreshed. It's true. The mental chatter turns off, and one's system can "reset" to the present moment.

Each lesson has several things going for it. First of all, it's a break in the pattern. You have to stop what you're doing and intentionally do something else. Secondly, your attention is quietly directed. Light and playful concentration clears the mental clutter, leaving you free, open, and ready for the rest of your day. Lastly, you usually experience something unusual. Something previously unknown, unconsidered, gently tickles your curiosity. It's the reawakening of childlike receptivity. All the chatter "out there" makes way for calm and clarity inside, where your own ideas and dreams can begin to take root and grow.

Your body's movement is perhaps the simplest way to begin to sense yourself, and it's also a profound way to explore consciousness itself. Moshe Feldenkrais believed that if individuals could begin to sense themselves, they would "come to their senses." When the chatter stops and the senses awaken, the present moment is ripe with possibility.

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