Bananas and Holes in the Sidewalk

I mentioned that I'm taking an MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) class a few weeks ago when it started, but I don't think I've said much about it since.  Tuesday night this week was the fourth class meeting meaning that for the three weeks between the first class meeting and tonight I have been practicing formal mindfulness (formal=sitting/lying down to intently meditate, body scan, do yoga, etc. vs. informal=choosing to pay attention to my breath in a stressful moment or while I'm in line at the market) for 45 minutes a day.

After the first two weeks of that practice (which per the MBSR prescription is a daily 40-45 minute body scan, some reading and occasional written homework, plus I would do some of my own sitting here and there) I was experiencing tremendous results.  My level of generalized anxiety had dramatically decreased and I noticed that when I was trigged by things that used to cause tremendous upset I was either less reactive or the reaction would be much shorter in duration and easier to move through back to emotional homeostasis.  I had even learned that I have even more positive results when I get up at 5:30am to start my day with a body scan meditation and changed my behavior to accommodate that practice (success!)

The thing is though...  a few of the core principles of mindfulness are non-judgement (good is a judgment folks... sit with that for a minute), non-striving, and non-attachment.  THAT... AND we're not supposed to declare whether the program worked for us until the end (which I think is mostly for the folks who it doesn't work for in the beginning but is also for the over-achievers like me to prevent us from burning out in an all too early blaze of glory when the results of our practice aren't as stunning over time.

I was aware of the positive results.  I was aware of my desire to become attached to them.  And that's pretty much as far as I got.  Knowing is half the battle--no one ever says what the other half is.

Cue week three when we're instructed to introduce mindful yoga into our practice by alternating it with the body scan every other day.  I notice I'm somewhat averse to this... but I don't know why.  I like yoga... hell, I've even loved yoga.  I'm also kind of resistant to activity lately which I think is just a result of it being difficult because my activity level has dropped so I'm not experiencing as much success as I'd like.  I figure this is the issue and go on with my life intended to begrudgingly do yoga instead of the body scan every other day (not figuring that I could actually do both if I wanted.  Sometimes my "rule follower" nature still drives the car [brain]).

Cue stabbing self in hand with knife two days later and deciding that I therefore "can't" do yoga (although there is plenty of yoga I could have done, I welcomed the excuse to remain body scan monogamous).  Now, I knew at the time of the stabbing that it had a deeper meaning, and I knew later on when I wrote about it that I hadn't explored it yet.  My first thought: "maybe you don't love yourself enough." Was met with a quick "fuck you.  yes I do.  this was an opportunity to prove that to myself and all of you judgy judgersons by doing right by myself after it happened!"  That felt good enough so again... I moved on!  (moving on is nice.  if you don't do it regularly, I highly recommend it)

Tuesday evening this week in MBSR while others were sharing their observations about the week's practice and the pseudo-celebrity was asking questions whose pondering take up most of the sharing time to answer... I realized that I had not been able to remain unattached to my success in the first two weeks of body scanning.  In fact... I had become so attached that I stabbed myself on the hand accidentally on purpose as a way to remain attached to the practice as it was.  Thing is, it didn't work.  I body scanned every day in the third week of practice, but it was hard, I didn't love it, and I didn't feel particularly great afterward.  I was not as engaged in my practice as I had been before.

Now, what was THAT about?

The discussion from class went something like this... the honeymoon is over.  The class is halfway through and the practice has evolved.  The excitement is wearing off and it's starting to feel less fun simply by virtue of becoming more comfortable or familiar.

And then there's me, in my head: "oh fuck.  i'm attached and because i'm attached and am afraid of that attachment being broken... i am doing that thing i do.  i am trying to leave this relationship before it leaves me!"

wow.  That old one again...  haven't seen that one in a while...

Class continues...

Autobiography In Five Chapters

1) I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost... I am hopeless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

2) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I'm in the same place.
But it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

3) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in... it's a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

4) I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

5) I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson 


How to Catch a Monkey: cut a small hole in a coconut, just large enough for a monkey to put its hand in. Next they would tie the coconut to a tree and put a banana inside.
The monkey would smell the banana, squeeze its hands into the coconut and grab the banana. Unfortunately the hole was not large enough for the monkey to pull out with his fist clenched. Of course the monkey could easily release itself from the trap by letting go of the banana and pulling its hand out but it simply cannot bring itself to do so.

and then the question... what are your bananas (and again, me, in my head...  "i don't have any fucking bananas and I want to go home"  wow, apparently someone's still trying to "leave" before she gets "left" here)?


My bananas/holes in the sidewalk... The places where I get stuck... The things that prevent me from being free:

  • perfectionism
  • fear of discomfort/difficulty
  • control (I thought all day that I was missing Spiderman because he's with BFO for a week when really what I am is worried about him and how he's being taken care of because it's not me who's taking care of him!)
  • attachment
It's strange to be in a place where I'm so fresh off of Chapter 5 in the Autobiography poem for so many bananas/holes that I can still remember the way old routes smelled...  but I'm also in Chapters 1-3 for several things that have been uncovered recently or maybe Chapter 4 for some of the old ones that are needing more time and effort to choose to do differently...  I think the poet should add an additional chapter.

Chapter 6: repeat Chapters 1-5.