An article entitled "No Time to Think" by Kate Murphy published in the New York Times Sunday Review on July 27th, 2014 states:
"In 11 experiments involving more than 700 people, the majority of participants reported that they found it unpleasant to be alone in a room with their thoughts for just 6 to 15 minutes."
It speculates that the constant busyness many of us seem to experience, and sometimes even glorify this day and age, may just be a tactic for avoiding self-reflection. Busyness distracts us from acknowledging the reality of our thoughts, emotions, and sensations -- particular those we consider "negative".
As an Alexander Technique teacher and resident of the City that Never Sleeps, this does not come as a surprise to me. Many of my students and fellow city dwellers spend their every day powering forward with no time for pause, working nonstop to get ahead in their careers, going to the gym, bouncing from one social engagement to the next, running errands, and keeping up with social media 24/7. But this pace is not sustainable. Whatever feelings and sensations we shut out get pushed down in our psyches, only to bubble up in unexpected ways at unexpected times. Without time for self-reflection, we're just hurtling through our lives on auto-pilot, limiting our capacity for growth and change.
Alexander Technique addresses these tendencies by teaching mindfulness in activity. By quieting down our mind-bodies, and bringing awareness to how we do what we do everyday, we learn to release excessive gripping, tensing, and holding in order to find decompression, efficiency and freedom throughout everything we do.
Instead of being mindful for a designated 20 minutes in our day, and racing around for the other 23 hours and 40 minutes, by slowing down to stop, and allowing ourselves to accept wherever, and whoever, and however we are in the present moment without trying to change anything, by releasing any agenda we may have, we create space for self-reflection and growth as we eat our breakfast, take a shower, ride the train to work, sit at our computers, and hang out with our friends.
You can try it right now. As you read this post, notice if you're gripping through your neck and back muscles at all. Notice if you're breathing. Give yourself a moment to bring any wandering of your mind back to your awareness of the present moment by noticing the space around you and the sounds you hear. Then grow up through your spine out your head. Expand through the four corners of your back. And lengthen out the through your arms and legs. This periodic stopping to turn down the volume on our amped up nervous systems, and expand through our musculoskeletal framework helps us incorporate the benefits of mindfulness meditation into every moment. Mindfulness becomes embodied.
Will "negative" feelings arise through this process? Yes. Sadness, anxiety, anger, and fear may all bubble up from time to time in various forms, but inevitably these feelings will pass like the ever changing tide lapping up against the shore. And by allowing ourselves to feel these emotions fully, we are doing a service to the rest of the world by not shutting out or suppressing what is actually going on. Without attaching to the feelings and sensations you notice arising in your mind-body, you un-grip to find space around them. And the more we practice this acceptance, the less tumultuous the waves become, and the more luxurious 6-15 minutes in a room alone with your thoughts becomes.
How do you manage "negative" emotions and sensations when they arise? I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.