I’m driving in my car, and I realize that I am all hunched over and round shouldered because of the cold. So I sit myself up tall in my seat. And I keep driving.
A few minutes later I realize I am hunched over yet again, so I engage my core and sit up tall, with some conviction and determination this time.
I wonder, how long have I been slouching? Did I catch it quicker than last time? How long can I go without slouching at all?
It happens over and over, again and again, day after day; slouch, straighten, slouch straighten, a constant cycle of caving in and rising up.
I know I should sit up straight. I know that it’s better for me. It is better for my spine, for my core. This one small adjustment is even better for my mood. Sitting up tall expands my lungs, opens my heart, increases my confidence. I can breathe better, I feel better, but I keep slipping back to the comfortable, habitual posture. The posture that can do damage over time.
I know it’s not the best way to sit, so when I do notice, I adjust. But when I’m really really cold, I may decide to stay that way, because I somehow have come to believe that it can protect me from the cold.
One of my favorite meditations is “Noticing”. I close my eyes and sit in silence and focus on the feeling of my breath as it enters and exits my nostrils. Then I start noticing what happens. If I start thinking about the future, I say “planning”, then I go back to my breath. If I start to worry about something I say “worrying” and go back to my breath. If my arm starts to hurt, I say “feeling”. If I start to move, I say “fidgeting”. If I start ‘remembering’, or ‘fantasizing’ I say the words, and then go back to my breath.
I do this all without judgment. I notice what is happening in my mind, I label it, then I go back to my breath. No frustration, no scolding, without judgment, I simply adjust and turn back to the breath.
Of course I can choose to engage the thoughts or feelings rather than just notice. Sometimes words will pop into my head, I will notice that I am actually “writing”, and I may stop my meditation to write them down, if I really want to. No judgment.
This noticing is just another way of becoming more mindful of what is happening all of the time. Once we start doing this with one small thing, like slouching, we can carry the method into almost every aspect of our lives.
We can notice how we do every thing, notice our habits and patterns, become more aware of how our minds and bodies interact, and how we interact with the world.
When we notice we are quick to judge, or quick to argue with someone, we can stop, straighten ourselves up, and readjust. When we notice that we have a craving for something that we think we need, or an aversion to something that we think we don’t need, we can stop, and adjust.
When the feelings creep in slowly, we become mindful of them, until perhaps we can notice them before they become actions. Perhaps we can learn to sit up straight all of the time. If we want to.
The idea of “One small change, one short month” is to change one habit and notice the natural reaction that your body and mind have to that change. Set a course for the month and notice the moments when you veer off course. Notice, without judgment, and readjust, when you choose to. And notice when you choose not to.
The idea is to dedicate the month of February to noticing the power that one small change can have.
If you’d like to do this in February with a group of people, you can join us here.