“We put labels on boxes. All thoughts, all words are labels on boxes; therefore we feel we have to get everything boxed, and so we put ourselves in boxes. Everything is put in boxes, but actually everything in nature doesn’t go that way.” Alan Watts
Someone challenged me the other day that I was living a life in a series of boxes. Now before you think to yourself, what on earth prompted that conversation, take a moment, as I did to reflect on the context.
Do you? Manage relationships? Manage family situations? Manage to get your work done, or not at your place of employment? Manage your finances? Manage social interactions? For each of these and many more, we have a habit of constructing a mental box around yourself and that particular element of your life and then manage within the “mental box”.
For years, I separated my “work life” from my “personal life”. Reflecting now, I have no idea why, but I did. It is only in the past five years or so, that I have stopped worrying about any interaction between. In the past few years, I have come to accept many more of the “mental boxes” that I have are just that, “mental boxes”. Personal constructions of how I have created a life. I have come to realise that it is me that turns up for work every day. Just as it is me that goes home at night. And more importantly, how you carry your thoughts and feelings across your day.
As someone commented to me the other day “I don’t think I had any idea who you really were. You have changed so much from what I thought you were. It reminds me to be aware that there’s always more to people than you know.”
For some people, living their lives in a series of boxes works for them. For others, like me, it does not. If you are in the second camp, there are many different ways to bring aspects of your divided life together. Some people have friendship groups that span work, family and friends. Some use counselling or other talking therapies to help. I happen to use mindfulness.
Not the sitting in silence, meditation version.
HELPFUL TIP: I use the present moment practice. This is a short, 3 minute practice that you can use throughout the day to bring yourself back to the present moment. I have no idea why this works to bring about a more unified perception. Perhaps it is because it is more about the present moment. If you would like to give the practice a go, the instructions are as follows:-
Step 1: Becoming aware
- Deliberately adopt an erect and dignified posture, whether sitting or standing. If possible, close your eyes. Then, bring your awareness to your inner experience and acknowledge it, asking: what is my experience right now?
- What thoughts are going through the mind? As best you can, acknowledge thoughts as mental events.Don’t judge them.
- What feelings are here? Turn towards any sense of discomfort or unpleasant feelings, acknowledging them without trying to make them different from how you find them.
- What body sensations are here right now? Perhaps quickly scan the body to pick up any sensations of tightness or bracing, acknowledging the sensations, but, once again, not trying to change them in any way.
Step 2: gathering and focusing attention
- Now, redirect the attention to a narrow ‘spotlight’ on the physical sensations of the breath, move in close to the physical sensations of the breath in the abdomen . . . expanding as the breath comes in . . . and falling back as the breath goes out.
- Follow the breath all the way in and all the way out. Use each breath as an opportunity to anchor yourself into the present. And if the mind wanders, gently escort the attention back to the breath.
Step 3: expanding attention
- Now, expand the field of awareness around the breathing so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture and facial expression, as if the whole body was breathing.
- Aware of the whole body, moment by moment.
And that is that. Go on give it a try and do let me know how you get on.
I leave you with the following quote.
“Often, it’s not about becoming a new person, but becoming the person you were meant to be, and already are, but don’t know how to be.” ― Heath L. Buckmaster,