How do you unwind and shift gears when you’re tired or upset? Do you long to go numb? To escape? To forget?
If so, you might grab a drink, or two, or three or more.
You might do drugs.
You might find yourself mindlessly eating snack food or scrolling endlessly on social media or playing video games, or binge-watching your favorite show.
You might take a long shower or a bubble bath.
You might go for a run, a hike, a ride, or engage in retail therapy.
I’m sure you can think of more escape routes readily available. What, if any, are the ones you choose?
Some of these are inherently unskillful, and others are only unskillful because we go mindless. We stop noticing the physical cues of the body: This hurts. I’m full. I’m woozy. When we go mindless, it may feel pleasant at the time, but ultimately it’s painful. It can cause damage to our bodies and our relationships. In a state of mindlessness, we often make poor choices. It’s easy to see this with alcohol and drugs, but even healthy activities can become unskillful when we go mindless and lose touch with the felt sense of being alive in the moment. We might forget to pay attention to our body’s cues. We may tell ourselves, Mind over matter. Muscle through. Our drive to be “the best” or do the most or to get lost in the zone overrides self-compassion. So our effort is unwise.
What if we could infuse our lives so full of the infinite ease of mindfulness that we don’t feel the need to go mindless? What if, throughout the day, whatever we are doing, we access lovingkindness and awareness to meet every experience? Then a difficult challenge, whether a situation, a person, or a project, when met in this way, is no longer an obstacle to overcome. If we are relaxed, open, and attuned to the inseparable nature of all being, we have nothing to defend and nothing to prove. Instead, we often find ways to engage that shift the energy and lift people up so that they feel less defensive, isolated, and combative. That makes it even easier for us to release our outmoded and burdensome defenses.
And so, at the end of the day, we’re not dragging our worn-out or tensed-up bodies home longing to unload. Some minutes in meditation, reconnecting with awareness of the elemental nature of being, will be enough to recharge.
So when you notice that longing to shift gears, yes, instead of going mindless, you can remind yourself that you have the capacity to shift your relationship to all that arises in your life instead of weighing your mind down with shoulds and musts and to-do lists and strategies that are faulty from the start because they are likely grounded in unwise intention and unwise understanding. It’s easy to get caught up in feeling like an isolated self needing to be seen in a certain way.
Take a releasing breath. Sense any tension in the body. Notice a sense of striving. A belief that perfection is possible and that you have the means to make it so. From that perspective, it seems crazy to think you could just float through life on a cloud of lovingkindness spreading joy and ease wherever you go.
But if you can cultivate even an ounce of self-compassion, it grows. So every time you find yourself overwhelmed and longing to go mindless, choose instead to become more mindful. More aware. Not more overloaded with thoughts, looking through veils of opinions, but spacious, connected, clear seeing, centered, and balanced.
When you find infinite lovingkindness for yourself and, in turn, for all beings, it shifts your whole way of being in the world. You’ll know you are acceptable just as you are. The tangled veils of guilt, shame, worry, and anger soften and lighten. You’ll bloom and grow and find nourishment and your way of contributing to the well-being of all life.
And you won’t miss going mindless at all.