Mindfulness Isn’t Easy
You can’t just all of a sudden decide to become mindful. I discovered that one day at Safeway.
I had been practicing regularly at the San Francisco Zen Center for a few years. One day as I pulled into my local Safeway parking lot to get a quart of milk I got the brilliant idea that would prove my developing Zen cred. I would remain mindful of my every thought and action from the time I left my car, purchased my milk, and arrived back at my car. It could not be so hard I told myself. After all I had been practicing Zen for years.
So off I went, mindfully locking my car, mindfully proceeding to the store entrance and mindfully walking toward the dairy case…until suddenly I was home with my milk!
It was like a sober blackout. I had been home for a while before I even remembered the challenge I had set for myself. I didn’t remember anything about my mindfulness excursion after I approached the store entrance. I didn’t even remember my vow to do it until I was home. I knew I had shopped because Safeway’s milk was in my refrigerator. But what what was I thinking about the rest of the time? Sadly I have no idea.
Of course, upon reflection, my failure makes perfect sense. Often when meditating and counting my breaths I don’t even make it to 10. And that’s in the silence of my meditation room. An attempted mindful excursion into a major retail chain full of harried consumers is much more difficult. So I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.
So Why did I Come in Here?
This reminds me of a similar thing that happens every now and then. It may have happened to you. I’m sitting at my desk, a little hungry and remember the half a burrito in my refrigerator that I brought home from the restaurant last night . So I get up and purposefully stride toward the kitchen, and upon arriving I find myself standing in the kitchen thinking “Why did I come in here”? I have to retrace my steps and before I get all the way back to my office I remember.
Events like these aren’t necessarily senior moments. They just a lack of mindfulness. They’re similar to my Safeway experience. On my way to get my burrito, I start thinking/worrying/obsessing about something else, completely losing track of my original goal. It’s the exact opposite of mindfulness. This tends to happen more often if I’m stressed. The solution is simply to pay attention to what I’m doing moment-to-moment. Easier said than done, especially at a crowded supermarket.
But mindfulness is important. It might even safe your life! How many auto accidents and trip and fall incidents are caused by lack of mindfulness?
I’ve learned it’s better to begin your mindfulness excursions under controlled conditions. With meditation for instance. Over time your meditation experience will begin to slowly affect your everyday life though a kind of mindful osmosis. Begin in a quiet room. Then tackle Safeway.