#28 Mindful Queers and Allies Reading Circle
For the past 4 months I’ve been organizing and participating in a queer book club on meditation and mindfulness. Not only has it fostered a small but great community centered around kindness, gratefulness, and honest practice, but I’ve gotten to read some really great books!
So far we’ve read Being Peace by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Mindfulness Sampler by Shambhala Publications, Waking Up to What You Do by Diane Rizzetto, The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff, and The Force of Kindness by Sharon Salzberg. In the beginning we were meeting twice a month, but after a while we decided to go to once a month to make it easier to finish the books. If you’d like to participate, follow the link and request to join the Facebook group!
Anyway, I find that when I spend more of my week dedicated to being mindful, or being calm, or being kind, I am more persistently satisfied with life, and capable of handling it’s ups and downs. For example, this fall when I was not practicing yoga or meditation very regularly, I would frequently become anxious with an irrational fear of being fired for small infractions, despite repeated reassurance from my boss that I was doing a good job. I was very nervous about performance reviews, and became very stressed for a month in December/January when my progress reports were being sent back for edits. I remembered something my old principle told me much less gently than any of the messages I receive from my boss now, “you take things way too personally, Cheyenne.” Every time I think it my knee-jerk reaction is, “No I don’t!”, but when I really think about it it’s true. When my boss says, “Cheyenne, there were X and Y small mistakes on your progress reports, I’m going to need you to reread them, make corrections and send them back,” it doesn’t mean, “you’re headed for disciplinary action.” But that is what the judge in my mind things. I would worry and worry about something I said making it worse, or whether it meant that she was disappointed in me and might even cut my hours. As the observer more and more these days I can clearly see now that my fears were irrational, but that doesn’t erase the mental and physical toll they had on me at the time.
Our ability to propel our attention into the future, or hold it in the past is uniquely and beautifully human, and it has conferred us with tremendous biological advantage throughout history. But so can it be disastrous for our mind and body. Our stress reaction is designed to help us react quickly and smartly if we’re in immediate danger – say for example we’re being attacked by a bear. Stress definitely helps us fight or escape the bear, but stress doesn’t help us in our worry about the past or future. And prolonged stress is a major contributor to just about every modern disease there is! So learning to let go of our stress as we walk through life also has a major biological advantage!
How have I let go of the stress without removing the so-called source? Well I had to come to terms with how it made me feel, and switch off the judge in my mind while at the same time engaging the observer in my mind. Simply trying to ignore your problems instead of observing them doesn’t work either, your stress just manifests itself in self-medication and possibly even mental or physical illness down the road. So when we turn off the judge we have to engage the observer, watching our thoughts and emotions while trying not to get caught up in them. The good news is the more you practice, the better you get! And I’m not saying sit for an hour in silence! If you can sit for even 5-10 minutes a day it will surely improve your outlook and mood, and if you can’t simply try to “meditate-on-the-go,” by consciously breathing on your commute to and from work, when you get a moment’s break, or even in the shower!
As an added bonus, my recent endeavors to practice meditation and mindfulness more regularly have increased my metacognition, my creativity, and perhaps even my ability to do sudoku! What benefits do you get from being mindful? Comment below!