Mindfulness is often defined as paying attention in the present moment without judgement. If you have practiced this, you likely have become aware of a rather continuous flow of sensations and feelings that happen within you, around you and between you and others. Happenings are phenomena; observable occurrences. It is a mindful form of play to consider oneself a sort of happening. It is common to lose sight of how happenings (inner, outer and other) continually shape our responses, which in turn influences what unfolds as the next happening and so on through our days. Much is always happening, but our brains can actually only pay attention to one thing at a time. One.
Consider adopting a habit of pausing often through the day to notice the many pulls upon your attention via your five senses. Notice you can toggle your attention between phenomena attracting it, often quite rapidly like a fast scroll through your cell phone photo gallery but in reality, your brain is attending to one happening after another. It helps to name where your attention is going to appreciate how fast it moves. For example, screens, voices, smell of hand sanitizer, street noise, thirst, COVID statistics, political ad, neck tension, planning dinner, etc. Using this practice regularly reveals where our attention is most repetitively being drawn/what is our happening. Being both neuroplastic and bioplastic, we all become more proficient at whatever (thoughts, words, deeds) we repeat the most, including where our attention is drawn and the feeling states and emotions produced. When distracted, our brain activity typically migrates into a self-referential, self -evaluative mode, generating a vague sense of disease. You may have noticed an elevated level of distraction in yourself and others particularly in this time of deep societal uncertainty on so many levels.
Fortunately, the wisdom traditions have a work around! Once we mindfully observe if the dominant phenomena /most frequent object of our attention generates feelings of comfort or discomfort, we can choose to stay with our observation knowing it will inevitably change, or we can redirect our attention to explore for opposite qualities of whatever phenomena is most repeatedly attracting our attention. As suggested by the Yin-Yang symbol, opposite qualities are always co-existent. For example, disruption couples with stability, stagnation with creativity, fear with courage, fatigue with energizing, noise with quiet and so on. Whatever phenomena is happening, observe also its opposite quality. Over time, this cultivates a neutral sense of equanimity. Equanimity is an elixir for uncertainty.
As we each adapt to the increasing disruption of living through this phase of time, self-care may be compromised if not consciously held as a priority. In keeping with exploring opposing qualities of phenomena, consider self-care’s opposites as a path to appreciating the its value to you. We practice self -care to thrive! Let all tension drain with your breath out and take a fresh breath in affirming you care deeply about you! A quick thesaurus swoop provides these antonyms for care- disregard, neglect, oversight, omission, thoughtlessness and cites withering as an antonym to thriving. Feel the impact of each of these words. If and when we have one of those days where we believe self-care just cannot fit into it, experiencing even for a moment its opposites may lead us to a happening of the wise and self-compassionate choice to invest that five minutes.