Of Mice and Meditation

Here we are on Day 2 of the Writing Prompt Journey. I do hope you join us!

writing-cycleThe exercise today is very challenging. I’ve spent many hours considering how I would write it, and where the setting should be in the story. It’s a work of fiction. I’m okay with that. However, I like to teach an insight or two when I write. That’s what happens at Tribe Awakened!

I realized while working with a stress client today that a meditation class would be the perfect setting to explore this project without too much dialogue. So here are some meditation insights woven into the tale.


Of Mice & Meditation

Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation.

miceThat’s what I named the class. It’s nice and simple. People knew what they were getting into upon arrival. I didn’t expect a big turn out.

The class was in a meeting room at the local coffee shop. All the delicious smells drifting through the air tugged at my caffeine addiction. Just what I needed. A caramel machiatto in all of it’s espresso loaded sugar coated frothy buzz coursing through my veins as I tried to sit in meditation.

The students found their way in one by one. It doesn’t take long to count to four that way. We all filled our chairs, and I started in on the lessons. One woman mentioned the construction going on at the library next door. It seems they were replacing some of the older sections in the basement for safety concerns. We couldn’t hear any of the construction over the low roar of mingled conversations in the coffee shop. The interlude of blenders coming to life would drown out anything else. I’m guessing that’s why we never heard all the scratching noises before things got weird.

Newcomers to meditation usually think a quiet serene setting is required. No distractions. Just them and their quiet minds. That’s not true at all. I’ve always felt that distractions provide more opportunities to train my awareness. Newbies also tend to think meditation is all about clearing their mind until it is serene and quiet. Dispelling that myth is usually lesson one.

“Go ahead and close your eyes,” I instructed. “All I want you to do is sit there for thirty seconds and think of nothing. Not one thing. Just clear your mind of all thought. Go.”

That mental exercise was followed by some laughter and objections. It’s impossible to think of nothing. Your mind is busy. I mean hurricane shredding a coastal town kind of busy. That’s not meditation.

“Now that we’ve all had a good laugh,” I was ready to nudge them into another insight, “Go ahead and close your eyes again. Now I want you to spend another thirty seconds tracking every single thought that goes through your mind. Go.”

They all gave up a lot quicker this time. We had a good laugh, but they did gain some insight into what is called Thinking Mind and Observing Mind. All that chaos running through your head is your Thinking Mind: the random thoughts, broken song fragments, worries and hopes, and every other unbidden noise between your ears. Good luck controlling that madness. The awareness you controlled and used to look towards those thoughts is called your Observing Mind.

I continued their training in Mindfulness by teaching them how to focus on their breath. Breathe in, breathe out, and repeat. Easy, right? Notice how it feels coming in, follow the rise and fall of your belly, or follow whatever sensation of your breath you desire. Whatever you choose, remember to pay attention.

I guided the students through a short mindfulness exercise that focused on the breath, and allowed them to discuss what they experienced. Distractions are always both the biggest surprise and the biggest hurdle. They can be tricky for newcomers, but easy to navigate once you understand the principle of non attachment. Thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and noises in your environment will all cause you to lose your focus. The magic happens when you notice you’re distracted, and you gently return your attention to your breath. You do so without judgment. Be kind to yourself. You’re not doing it wrong. That’s how your mind and meditation interact.

It was time for the longer formal meditation. We all got comfortable. I set the timer for twenty minutes. I gave everyone one last reminder on what to do, and we were ready to sit and breathe.

I had the usual thoughts come and go. My attention usually gets lost in song fragments before I realize what’s going on between my ears. The worst distractions are body sensations. The urge to itch can be overwhelming sometimes. I like to turn towards it as if it was a brand new thing in my life. That’s usually enough to cause the sensation to fizzle away.

That day was different.

I kept feeling tickling sensations as if something crawled across my lap. No worries, I reminded myself. Keep breathing. Allow the sensation to pass. Then something brushed against my leg. I remembered I was in a business, I was safe, and I knew there was nothing to worry about. There are no animals in here. It’s just the air from a nearby vent. I returned my attention back to my breathing.

That’s when I heard the scream.

My eyes shot open. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! Mice. There had to be hundreds of them. There were mice all over the floor, along the walls, and on the tables too!

A few of the mice had found their way into a students lap before making their presence known. It was her scream that startled everyone out of their meditation.

I would’ve been scared myself, but the sheer number of them made it so comedic. Two of the students were hysterical. I’ve never laughed so hard in my life as I watched them try to dance through the furry chaos. How do you go from meditation stillness to screaming and crying so quickly? Enter the mice invasion.

I started worrying about the safety of everyone in the room; even the mice. Panic never solved anyone’s problems. I tried to get everyone’s attention, but the mice was all my students could see. The mice looked like they were trying to avoid the screamers and stomping feet, but there were so many of them in the small room it was a lost cause. The little mice must have been disturbed from their hideout in the library with all the construction. Why wouldn’t they follow their little noses to the tempting delights in the coffee shop?

I still needed to get everyone’s attention in order to calm my students back to a rational mind state. The hysterics were probably as upsetting to the little mice as they were to our human sensibilities.

“Stop!” I yelled into the chaos. Everyone was stunned to hear me yell.

They stopped.

They all turned to look at me.

All of them.

Students and Mice alike appeared to be waiting on instructions.

Strange, I thought.

What sort of mice would respond to a human command?

The End.

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