Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Mindfulness in the media

Today, my arms and shoulders and back ache from shoveling snow. We now have mounds of snow as tall as my son. He stands a smidge taller than five feet. I call the two biggest mounds "Snowhenge." Atop the retaining wall that runs along the driveway, the snow towers taller than my head. I can no longer simply shovel. I have to throw the snow as high as I can in the air. Yep. I can feel the burn.

Regardless of the burn, or maybe because of the burn, there's something about shoveling snow that feels so peaceful. The hush. The rhythmic scrape of the shovel against the pavement. Muscles straining. Breath pluming. Snow falling and turning to ice crystals in my hair. I much prefer it to breaking out the snow blower. The blower belches gas fumes and feels absolutely harsh and alien. More efficient, yes. Necessary, especially when digging out from a heavy snowfall, yes. But also alien.

Serendipity again? Yesterday, the Boston Globe featured this article, "Mindfulness therapy puts the focus on improving the quality of body and spirit." A recent study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that "the practice of paying attention leads to anatomical changes in the brain." Volunteers were given MRI scans before and after they attended weekly mindfulness classes for eight weeks. After eight weeks, they experienced "a 1 to 3 percent increase in their brain’s gray matter in particular areas responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation."

The article quotes Ronald Siegel, an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of The Mindfulness Solution. He states, "It’s all about adopting a receptive attitude: paying attention to how things are rather than how you want them to be [emphasis mine]."

Ahhh...the should-be's. I've been afflicted by a terrible case of the should-be's for as long as I can remember. You could even say I have a terminal case. After my first child was born, I scoured baby books, memorizing milestone lists and fretting constantly if my child were not meeting milestones at the proper rate. "He should be...by now," was my constant refrain. Still is in a way. Poor kid. By the time numbers two and three rolled around, I was too overwhelmed to be worrying about milestones. I can't even remember when my youngest first walked or said her first words. I had two littles thirteen months apart, and I was lucky if I remembered to buy food. If living mindfully helps me to shake the should-be's, I'll be so thankful. Thinking that something "should be" something else (better, different, faster, stronger) is so incredibly destructive, but just realizing that hasn't made me stop.

Another (snowy) day. Living mindfully. 

1 comment:

  1. As a romantic type of personality, I reeeeally suffer from the should-bes or what-could-bes. But that's what allows us to see potential. I suppose, like everything, it has to do with moderation and balance.