Last week I met with my colleague in a quaint little coffee shoppe in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. We sat together discussing our research, eating croissants, and tippity-tapping on our MacBooks. After an hour-and-a-half or so we were on our way to our next appointments. As I was leaving, iced-coffee-to-go in hand, I felt pulled to – right at that moment – text my husband to let him know that I had cancelled an appointment and would be home when he returned from work. So there I was, walking down the
sidewalk, coffee in one hand while texting away with the other, and – wham! My flip-flop caught the lip of the old stone sidewalk and I lie there – on the ground, coffee everywhere, papers flying from my bag, with my dignity in the gutter.
Luckily I wasn’t hurt ~ but my ego was crying!
I scrambled to my feet and carried on my way, laughing at myself over what had just happened. Transitioning from an educational administrator to a mindfulness instructor has been an exhilarating, rewarding, and challenging process. For awhile I found myself believing that I had to “be” a certain way in order to be “good enough” to teach something I hold so sacred. Not sacred in a religious sense, but sacred in a “this is so amazingly special that I cannot possibly be worthy to call myself a teacher of this” sacred. Every time I felt myself engaging in some sort of unskillful behavior – whether it was eating too many peppermint patties or commenting on my sister’s full-attachment parenting, the mindfulness police in my head went, “See? And you call yourself a mindfulness instructor?” In all aspects of my life, the inner critic would compare my current self to my “mindfulness instructor” self.
“Jenny, mindfulness instructors don’t drink coffee! They drink yerba-matte out of bombillas!
And for goodness’ sake, lose the suit and find some flowing gauzy skirts!
I’ve been thinking about my “trip and fall” for about a week now. After noticing many many self-judging thoughts, I’m now stepping back and peppering in a drop or two of self-compassion. I am a 30-something newly wed living in a large city in the Northeast, running a business, working on a study at an Ivy League school, and striving to live a mindful life. I barely watch television, listen mostly to NPR and Deva Premal in my car, and spend an ample amount of time practicing and teaching mindfulness. It is okay that at times, even I get sucked into the centrifuge of Western culture – this constant whir of energy that pulls us into believing that we must be plugged in and producing at all times.
Since when does doing more mean being a better person and busy-ness is next to godliness?
It reminds me of that scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original film, of course) where Grandpa Joe and Charlie are trying to keep themselves from being sucked into the fan after drinking the fizzy lifting drinks. I can’t get over how easy it is to “get sucked in.” Every day I find myself faced with choices that either add to the fast-paced madness or keep me in a more calm space: Should I answer the phone every time it rings, or let it go to voicemail? Should I make phone calls from the car (hands-free) or concentrate on the drive? Cardio or yoga? Latte or Decaf Green Tea? Read or watch Netflix?
I’ve come to understand that there really is no “right” way or one path to mindful living. Every moment is a new opportunity to choose. Every minute – a chance to make a fresh start. So what have I learned from being flat on my face? That even Jenny Mills, Mindfulness Instructor, trips and falls… and that’s okay.
Wishing you non-judgment and peace!