I met a friend for coffee yesterday afternoon, and we got to talking about the difference between awareness and mindfulness. I was explaining how I am more aware now, can see myself as I start to enact old habits, practice old patterns, specifically of numbing out or perfection, but most of the time, I am unable to stop myself. Instead, I watch it happen, the same way it has thousands of times before.
For example, I make the chocolate zucchini bread with an awareness that I typically can’t eat it like a “normal” person, that I have trouble stopping because the more I can eat, the more numb I feel. I feel bad and want the bad to go away, and this works.
But I make promises to myself that this time will be different, I will control myself, I will “be good,” but get into a heated argument with the one that needs the zucchini bread, as much of it as I can stand to stuff in. It needs to feel better, now, and this is how to make that happen, so “you” aren’t going to stop me–I am doing this.
This is the point where my awareness–awareness of the danger, my understanding of the ineffectiveness of this strategy, the knowledge of how ashamed I’ll feel when it’s over, that it won’t actually help in the long run, that it’s actually my heart that is starving and this is not going to feed it, never going to satisfy that hunger no matter how much I eat–slips away.
The next thing I know, I’ve eaten two huge pieces and I feel sick to my stomach. It’s like when you get in your car to go to work, aware that you are getting in your car to go to work, and next thing you know, you are there, and have no memory of the drive–complete mindlessness.
My friend and I also talked about how sometimes it is like watching a movie of ourselves doing the thing. There’s no moment when we aren’t aware, we see all of it, but still, we do like we always do.
This can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging. And yet, there are so many reminders that this is how it happens, and that’s okay, that it’s worth continuing to try.
“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”
— Leo Tolstoy
It is the “Half Step that Will Change Your Life.”
This afternoon, rather than going to City Park to walk the dogs, Eric and I drove up to Mount Margaret, one of our favorite places. I relaxed, breathed, heard and felt the wind, took many steps, and let go. This is what it means. You practice, you keep showing up, you stop “smashing yourself to bits” when you see yourself doing the same old things, instead you love the suffering, you accept and lean in, and you promise to keep watching, being aware, for as long as it takes.
- What are you attempting to balance? What are you trying to break?