You cannot function effectively unless your emotions are under control.  I prefer to create a gradually increasing level of both intensity and achievement rather than trying to create artificial emotional highs.  For every contrived peak you create, there is a subsequent valley.  I prize intensity very much–controlled focus and directed energy.  ~Coach John Wooden

I really love this quote about intensity and self-control.  The idea of honing your energies to achieve a goal is very appealing. 

Several years ago, my husband and I participated in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction class.  MBSR is a program started by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979.  Our class included 8 weekly meetings, practice CDs for meditation and yoga, and one daylong retreat.  Since taking the class, my husband and I have used the CDs occasionally.  Lately, I’ve started my own mindfulness practice using an app on my iPhone to keep track of the time.  Instead of listening to pre-recorded guidance, I spontaneously choose a sensory focus.  Every time my inner dialogue starts (and, believe me, I have a TON of inner dialogue), I bring myself back to this focus.  I label my meditations depending on what I’ve decided to focus on that day. 

  • Fresh Air Meditation: I sat in my car with the window open.  I’d bring myself back to the feeling of the air on my face.
  • Messy Newspapers Meditation:  I sat on my couch in front of a pile of newspapers on the coffeetable.  I’d bring myself back to the shadows and light on the newspapers.
  • Anxiety Monday Meditation:  On a day when I felt anxious (honestly, I don’t even remember what the issue was now!), I sat and noticed where I felt the anxiety in my body.  Not to make it dissipate, but to feel it.
  • Listening to Pharmacy Meditation:  My library is next to the pharmacy.  One day before I opened the Consumer Health Library, I sat in the dark and listened to the voices of the pharmacy workers, the pills being counted and the heating system blowing. 
  • Wet Sock Meditation:  After a rainy walk between our main library and the Consumer Health Library, I sat and felt the difference between the foot with the wet sock and the dry sock.

Being able to focus on sensory input (air on my face, light on the newspapers, anxiety in my body, sound in my building, socks on my feet) helps me more that watching my breath or saying a mantra.  I love the opportunity to bring my awareness to what is happening either outside of me or within my body (rather than inside my mind).  I trust that practicing controlled focus will ultimately be a stress-reducer for me.  Here’s a bit more on that from the man himself.

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