Day 39: Practicing Not Reacting

I was talking with a group of faculty today about what makes practicing mindfulness hard. One said, “I am afraid I would spend the whole time thinking about how long it has been, and wondering about time. It wouldn’t be productive.”

The expectation that our sitting practice is “productive” is hard to overcome. Even those of us who are practicing awhile may tend to classify pleasant sits when our minds are relatively settled as productive, and sits where our mind is busy and restless as unproductive. Especially as teachers, we are coached to carefully measure each moment of our class to make sure we are maximizing productivity. It can be hard not to apply this to all of life, even our mindfulness, when time feels so precious.

But what we know about mindfulness is that we are actually setting aside a time where we are intentionally being present for whatever shows up. We are practicing being nonreactive to those thoughts. Okay, time is passing. This is boring. Can I still stay? I have a million things to do. Why am I wasting my time? Can I take a breath and still stay? In the staying, we learn so much. We can see how impulses come and go. We can see how we don’t have to react, in this small way.

So practice your non-reactivity. Practice noticing “needing” to do something different, and breathing through, finding yourself on the other side. Your mindfulness practice need not look a particular way for it to be ”productive.”