Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mindfulness and The Art of Revision

If you have been following this blog, you know that I’ve been working on a collection of poems about water. I’ve written those poems, revised many of them as well, but I’m now going into deep revision.

I’m not going to go into how I make the choices I do. That’s personal and trivial. However, the hardest part of revision for me is putting myself in the state of mind I need to be to revise. The difference between one word and the next can make the poem, so I have to be in a place where that can happen.

Instead of writing about revision, I’m going to write about mindfulness and the steps I take to put me in a calm state of mind. I tend to work far too much. With the state of non-pay for professors in California, most of us are scrambling for extra income. I also help to run a non-profit and am trying to gather donations as much as I can. This creates a great deal of anxiety and often depression in my life, and since I tend to eat and drink my emotions, it’s led to weight gain.

Mindfulness is the idea that if you stay in the present you tend to be less unrealistic about the world around you. My friend Bonnie Hill Hearn gave me the best example of this. She talks about why people become so agitated when they are late for something. What is happening on the top of their minds is that they don’t want to miss a meeting or event. However, what they are worried about really is irrational and terrifying. Behind that fear is the idea that if they miss this meeting a whole string of devastating events will happen:

  • They’ll anger their boss.
  • They’ll lose their jobs.
  • They won’t be able to find a new job.
  • Their spouses will leave them.
  • They’ll lose their homes.

These are the unconscious assumptions that anger and anxiety at being late suggests, and we make these kinds of irrational jumps constantly. It’s part of the human experience.

Anyway, I can’t revise with these kind of fears swirling through my head, so the first job is to learn to be present in the moment. The blogs that follow are going to discuss how I achieve this mindfulness.

2 comments:

  1. John,

    After my dad died on Oct. 26, I started to eat my feelings, too. I really felt I had done a great job clearing the air with him before his death and letting go, but there is some tension in the family because of drama that occurred before his death and that continues to linger.

    Still, I just don't feel the need to punish my body anymore for things that I didn't do or that were out of my control. Recently, I've chosen to be more mindful about my health at all levels. I applaud you for recognizing the need to shift your perspective to find happiness--to see your life and your actions from a new vantage point.

    Your writing--your teaching--is a blessing to all those who experience it. I am so grateful that I had a chance to be in some of your classes!

    ~Carole

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your father's death, and I'm glad that you've moved on beyond that. I think staying focused on the reality of now is truly the only way to go forward.

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