Mindfulness Field Training 2: Motivation

This post is a followup to my previous one on mindfulness field training, which talked mostly about againstness and filler words. This post is also about how to intentionally shape the direction your thoughts go, but it’s more focused on the act of motivating oneself: grit, persistence, zeal, perseverance, roundtoitiveness and so on.

In mindfulness meditation, typically one does not expect to sit down for a 10 minute mindfulness practice and actually be mindful the whole time. The work is actually in (A) noticing you’re not mindful and then (B) bringing your attention back to your breath or heartbeat. Similarly, if we’re going to apply a generalized mindfulness skill to grit and perseverance, my thought is that it makes sense to model the relevant skill as (A) being able to notice when you’ve pushed away from your work and (B) being able to motivate yourself to return to it.

The fork in the motivation road

Last night I was studying and at one point I just sort of turned away from my standing desk and flopped onto my stomach on my exercise ball. I found myself thinking, “Okay, this is interesting… I definitely didn’t make a conscious decision to do this… I just found myself here.” Why, I wondered, had I spontaneously pushed away from my work? Was it unpleasant? Or just, being work, was it more challenging than felt comfortable at that moment?

At that point I had a few options of what I could do, and I thought back to an experience I had on Monday, when I was bringing back about twice as many groceries as the 15lbs I usually carry back from the grocery store. (The main reason being that I’d just learned of an interesting DIY meal-replacement shake that required me buying a ton of broccoli, frozen blueberries, and protein powder.) The grocery bags were really heavy. In the past, I had sometimes paused to rest once or twice on the way home, but this week I was pausing every hundred meters.

There was a pervading sense of “I can’t do this,” I noticed. » read the rest of this entry »

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