For several years now, I’ve been working on incorporating a mindfulness practice into my daily (hourly) life.
I began the practice to deal with anxiety; as any sufferer of anxiety will tell you, being in the present is the antithesis of fear and panic, which depend on a tacky combination of circuitous inner dialogue, self-denigrating thoughts and a repetitive regurgitation of previously-felt emotion.
There’s usually a bevy of compulsive behaviors that come bundled in there, behaviors that are meant to drive off the fear and panic.
One of my challenges is that the primary way of coping with anxiety—using deep breathing and other grounded senses to bring me back into the present moment—runs counter to the work necessary for being a writer.
For me, writing requires a deep dive into memory and imagination that often means plunging into that very quagmire of inner dialogue, destructive thoughts and stale emotion that typically trigger anxiety, panic attacks, etc.
I discovered Pema Chodron’s work near the beginning of my mindfulness practice, and I’ve found tracking on the Tibetan concept of shenpa to be useful for navigating these seemingly contradictory states of being. Here’s an excellent break-down by Chodron herself.
I’ve written many times in this blog about how very much I suck at noticing that I’m hooked. That doesn’t negate the fact that my goal is to pay better attention, to feel those triggers and those urges and not bite.
I will fail, of course. And that's why I must begin again.