What are you feeling right now?
Do you ever find yourself forgetting how you got somewhere? Not in a figurative, existential “what has happened to my life!?” kind of way. In a very real, very specific, “how did I physically get to this apartment/store/office/bar?” kind of way. It happens, and it used to happen to me more often than I care to admit.Urban Dictionary defines autopilot as that feeling like you are just going through the motions, your mind is gone. We have all found ourselves there. Whether its driving to work, not knowing which route we took through rush hour traffic, or ending up in the storage closet forgetting why we went in there in the first place, we have all turned on our autopilot setting. It is the opposite of awareness – and no matter how you look at it, it is dangerous. In autopilot, we miss things, big and small, that may cause harm to ourselves and others either physically or emotionally. I found myself in autopilot mode a lot when I was mid-way through my undergraduate experience. I was running from class to work to dance rehearsal to a party, and not only would I forget how I got to each place, but I’d forget the experience of being in each place almost entirely because I was not paying attention. The details weren’t important to me; it was all about getting through the day and getting from Point A to Point B.
I started practicing mindfulness meditation right around that time when someone very close to me was meditating to treat his depression. To me, mindfulness is much bigger than the meditation practice itself. It is a life practice, part of every moment of every day. It is awareness of yourself and of your surroundings, and letting each experience come and go without judgment. I am also aware that this awareness is an extremely tall order. At first, I was down on myself all the time in the beginning. Down because I would find myself daydreaming or because I noticed that my mind was wandering. But that is just it. The most important part of all of it, for me at least, is being at peace with your own humanity and imperfections. And that right there is where mindfulness meditation and Rooted Self Expression Center intersect. Emotional check-ins are the essence of mindfulness. It is the time we take during a session at Rooted when we ask ourselves, “What am I feeling right now?” It is so simple, but is also something we rarely do for ourselves from day to day. And for me, these check-ins have taken my mindfulness practice to the next level. In his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the lead researchers of mindfulness meditation, offers ways of beginning a personal practice. Zinn and others do a great job of making meditation and mindfulness accessible, but it was not until I began bringing emotional check-ins into my daily life that it all felt real for me. Before, mindfulness was an objective, non-judgmental way of seeing the world and “riding the wave” of life. Now, mindfulness is a non-judgmental way of seeing myself, as well as my environment and the experiences that I have in that environment. This new take on something I have been doing and learning about for so long has me thinking about myself a little more – a truth that used to bring about guilt and anxiety, and now gives me strength and confidence and peace.
For the record: I am not at all saying that with this new combination of mindfulness practice and asking myself what I am feeling more often I am now balanced. My worries have not all dissipated, and my problems have not all been magically solved. But – I can honestly tell you that I feel more calm in the face of stress, more accepting of my imperfections and those of others, and more like I am living my life as opposed to moving through it.
My personal Rooted journey is still evolving, but these emotional check-ins were certainly my jumping off point. They were easy to implement into my everyday, and were a point of intersection between the work I was doing (and still am) at Rooted with the mindfulness practice I had developed. So, now it’s your turn. Go ahead! Stop reading, close your eyes, and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?”