Minding


To start with a brief aside, “mind” can mean quite a lot. It can mean to caretake (child minder), to be careful (mind the gap), to pay attention or remind (mind your manners / mind you), to be bothered (do you mind?), it can be your brain (in the back of my mind), the way you think (speak your mind), or the act of thinking (change your mind). Anyway, now it’s lost all meaning for me.

I’ve been trying to mind my mind lately. There’s been a lot going on and trying to improve my awareness of the state of my mind (mindfulness), as well as my intentions has felt important.

I’ve noticed that my jaw is very tight. I don’t grind my teeth, but I find I’m holding my jaw differently, almost in anticipation. I’ve been doing little meditation exercises a few times a week, and I can’t seem to shake this anticipatory tension. This is obviously work-related, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing, but it’s a hard thing to hold for weeks and weeks. I feel like I’ve got tension-fed muscle contraction from the neck up, which means I can feel myself frowning more, feeling tightness across the roof of my mouth, and just feeling “on” a lot. Doing meditation (even in pretty small doses) is really making me aware of just how much tension I am holding in my literal face. It’s annoying.

I’m trying to be more aware of what’s going on underneath, because it obviously has impact on my body and then my mind. I’m trying to simplify how I think by focusing on just one thing at a time. It’s a super hard habit to form. Ever since I was little, I go on autopilot when I get bored, and apply my mind to literally anything else, while maintaining autopilot. I find myself doing it while trying to meditate – I breathe in and think “peace,” breathe out and think “calm,” and if I do that two or three times, I find I am still doing that, but I’m thinking about a P2 post I need to write, or why this or that is a problem, or whatever. I know that lots of people have trouble with being “in the moment” and practicing mindfulness, and that’s why it’s such a big business, so I’m not alone. I’m not sure how to better manage boredom, except to know it. Or at least, that’s a start.

One problem that I’ve got is that I’ve been successfully able to make overlapping decisions and hold concurrent conversations in a work context. It works, and works well. The problem is that I am not convinced it scales. Also, I might be able to give a work problem 12% of my concentration and be assured of being right, but I don’t want to give my kids 12% of my attention. I think the habits of one are the habits of the other, and I don’t like the look of them at home. So I’d like to refine and reduce. I think it becomes more and more important the more complex my work becomes, and the more complex my little humans become. An analogy is, perhaps, juggling. A juggler can juggle three interweaving loops of 15 balls, and that is impressive and complicated, or the juggler can level up and juggle only three batons – but those three batons are on fire. There is more responsibility, more complexity, and more emphasis on doing each and every motion perfectly. The juggling analogy sort of falls apart, because the audience isn’t a stakeholder in the same was as my colleagues or my family. But the core of it is the same – I can juggle 15 simple things well, or three highly complex things really well. Or at least that’s what I think is where I need to go next.

So I will keep trying to understand boredom, and accept it, and be comfortable expanding my attention to fill up only one or two problems at a time. And we’ll see what we see.


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