Today I was feeling grateful that my arm has healed pretty well after rotator cuff surgery. It’s been four months since the surgery. From this vantage point it doesn’t seem that long ago. But I remember back in November when the Dr. said I wouldn’t be able to drive for 6 weeks and I thought it was an eternity. Well I’m way past that, enjoying pretty much full use of my arm. Yay!
But as I was thinking in hindsight, I wondered what I was so worried about regarding the length of recovery. The honest answer was that I just didn’t want to slow my life down. I felt annoyed and scared at the prospect of doing errands or tasks one at a time. I didn’t want to have to pay attention to my movements and actions. Interesting huh? This mindful life guide didn’t like the idea of living the way I try to help others embrace.
One thing that worried me was that the current culture doesn’t support a slower, more mindful life. There seems to be an underlying urgency that is really hard to buck. Doing only one errand a day or one task at a time seems ludicrous and/or self-indulgent. I imagined feeling “less than” or “impaired” somehow by not being able to keep up the “normal” pace. I didn’t like loosing the feeling of control over my life that I enjoyed so much.
I also knew that moving slower would have the effect of not being able to block unpleasant feelings. Feeling productive always feels good, right? If you feel something uncomfortable, get moving. Take your mind off of it. I knew that moving slower would increase my sensitivity to my own mental suffering.
I was also sure that it couldn’t be done. Up until the surgery, out of deference to mindfulness, I had slowed my life down as much as I thought humanly possible. I felt that there was no way I could be more deliberate. It was my mind that got in the way. How could I do less? I imagined that I’d look and feel like a sloth.
But luckily, I had a legitimate excuse to slow way down. If I wasn’t mindful about my movements, I could undo the surgery. If I over did actions, I could hurt myself. I had to see what it was like to REALLY take one thing at a time and be mindful of that one thing.
In retrospect, I’m grateful for the opportunity given to me by my torn rotator cuff. I had the chance to overcome my discomfort and fears about what I thought an even more mindful life would be like. In general, I am less hurried than I was this time last year (when I tore my rotator cuff). And I don’t feel as “slothish” about it. I’m more in the habit of doing one thing a day and one task at a time. Don’t get me wrong, I sometimes eat and read the paper. Or I fold clothes and watch tv. But more often than not I’m drawn to just pay attention to the one thing I’m doing. And the worries about feeling uncomfortable feelings more acutely? Well I actually feel the pleasant ones more acutely too. So it balances out.
A teacher recently told me that this kind of life is really good for the nervous system. And that the nervous system likes it. He said once the nervous system has a chance to feel the benefits of it, it will seek this kind of feeling over and over. I think that’s where I am now. I’d rather just write the blog, not write the blog and text a friend. Or I’d rather just watch a movie, not watch and check my emails. It feels less complicated now and I’m grateful.
My wish is that you could try this way of being for a day or two (without having to have surgery). I hope that you’ll find the peace of living more mindfully and that your nervous system will purr.