Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#105: Be Mindful "The Rat Race"

This is the fourth post in a series tracking my progress in a mindfulness-based-cognitive-therapy class.

Competition is a big part of my life, owing largely to my history as a competitive swimmer. Even the fact that I explicitly outlined just there that I was a competitive swimmer should give you an idea of how much I value competition (ie. my kind of swimming was harder, faster, and just generally a bigger deal than yours).

As an adult, I still enjoy a little healthy competition. I swim with a Master's team, and compete once or twice a year (usually placing in the top 10, I might add). I play goalkeeper in a women's soccer league and will never be ok letting a goal in. I'm fully aware of and not totally ok with the fact that I don't own property, while many friends my age do. The major driving force behind my graduate school applications was a perceived disadvantage in a highly competitive job market. Finally, I generally aim to find the nicest clothes at the best prices, to be the better aunt, and to be the first to learn about important celebrity gossip (Geena Davis, Jamie Lee Curtis & Jane Fonda are pissed about the Oscars, by the way).

Sooo... How does this relate to mindfulness?

This week's activities were called Mindful Movement and Stretch and Breath. The guided audio tracks instructed me to let go of my tendency toward competition, and to avoid making value judgments or feel the need to push myself. The intention of the practice was to be as I was in that moment.

Well, that was quite impossible.

Up until now, I've been doing pretty good with these mindful meditations. Getting out of my head and immersing myself in that moment's experience is new, so it's an opportunity to create new habits. But that's when I'm sitting still. Moving and stretching, on the other hand, come with a whole heap of past experiences and future plans. Stretching my hip reminds me that I need to strengthen my glutes. Holding a plank pose reminds me that I need to strengthen everything else. Moving in any way reminds me that I need to get in shape. Generally, I am reminded of how my current ability is less than where I want it to be. Essentially, I'm losing the race.

But, who am I competing against? What am I really losing? Although this week I lost my focus and concentration, our facilitators are careful to remind us that that's not failure. The success is in bringing yourself back to awareness, which I did .... Eventually.

I'm too hard on myself when it comes to my body. Competitive swimming taught me that my body is something to be controlled and to exert power over, rather than an extension of myself that needs compassion, and to be heard, acknowledged, and respected.

I will try once more to complete this moving meditation, even though I am not required to. Although being mindful and aware of my body's experience in the moment won't overcome the complex relationship I have with my body, it's already taken me one step in the right direction... simply, by noticing.

To do: The 3-minute Breathing Space

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