Wednesday, October 5, 2011
How to Train a Wild Elephant
One of my weaknesses - if you want to call it that - is that I often look for wisdom that already exists inherently in the pages of a book. Whether it's affirmation, confirmation, or just comfort, the presence of something I already believed - or at least suspected - in print gives me solace.
Case in point, if you tasked me with the job of coming up with 100+ exercises to help increase mindfulness, I have a hunch I could give you a solidly publishable list by next Monday. Ask me how many of those tried and true exercises I engage in, however, and you may be waiting for an honest answer until the next lunar eclipse.
We're all somewhat guilty of preaching more than we practice, and one of the functions of this blog, in my opinion, is to share some insights that I come across with likeminded readers and friends, and in the process, open my own eyes to the thoughts I'm passing along as well.
So, when I found out there was a book already available called "How to Train a Wild Elephant (And Other Adventures in Mindfulness)" by Joy Chozen Bays, I had to check it out. Literally. The library wants it back in three weeks, so I've got some mindfulness training to do.
Over the next three weeks, I'll also make a point of sharing some of the more valuable exercises I find here on my blog, in hopes that they resonate w/ you as well. At first blush, some seem remarkably valuable, others marginally so, and a few seem a little extreme. Like all good guidebooks, it takes you from the wheelhouse of your comfort zone and then pushes you out into dicier waters.
I know for me, mindfulness is the most elusive of behaviors. I'm a frequent flier in the worlds of Facebook, MP3's, online articles, NPR headlines, and TV-as-background-noise while I read lifestyle. Silence, apparently, unnerves me. For a while, at least. Then, when I push through that discomfort, I reconnect with some rather primal, organic things - like lengthy linear thought, awareness of sensations, and a calmness of mind.
So, why do I keep pushing that kind of contentment out of the way? Well, because as Carrie Fisher once famously said, "Instant gratification takes too long." I want pleasure. I want it now. This is why I don't drink much. I'm not morally opposed to alcohol. I just know that if I found it to be the dizzying, mind-altering chemical that it appears to be, I'd be Bukowski'ed out in about a month.
Thus, this blogging exercise of sharing some of Ms. Bays' insights is as much to hold my own metaphoric feet to the fire as it is to pass along these exercises to others. But, hey, maybe we'll all learn something and, perhaps, by the end of this thematic blogging experiment, I'll have helped spike sales for the book by another four or five copies.
So, stay tuned. Wild elephant training begins here soon. Bring your own peanuts.