–a ‘Use-Me-Now’ resource for teens, babysitters,

maybe parents:

So how IS a peanut butter and jelly sandwich like mindfulness meditation? “IT’S NOT!”   (…Cue awkward silence . . . ) 

Okay,  but we can imagine. Try this:

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Peanut butter is sticky. So is attention. On purpose, we stick our attention to the thing that we focus on. Just like peanut butter sticks to a slice of bread. If we’re fascinated, it’s hard to scrape our attention off that fascinating thing. –Like getting to the next level of a computer game. If it’s a job we would rather avoid, we have to dig out LOTS of attention, to glob onto it, until we’re done. 

Jelly is floppy. So is relaxation. Ever seen jelly stand straight and tall? Me neither. Sometimes when we first wake up in the morning, we feel just like jelly, all relaxed and peaceful. If we want to get up and do stuff, we have to stretch and flex our muscles, just to un-jellify them.

So let’s say we have two slices of life. (LIFE?) Okay, bread then. Let’s start with bread. And we want to fill the space between those slices with two things: Peanut butter and jelly. It’s a no-brainer that we want good coverage. No big gaps.  So we spread the PB evenly and flop the jelly evenly. Also, we try to keep it on the bread, and not spill globs over the edges.  Same with meditation. Simple! Two slices of life, with a bit of time in between. (Time, space, whatever.) We just spread our sticky attention inside ‘right now’ and try to keep it from spilling over, to other times, besides now. Then we let our floppy relaxation spread itself, all over the same time  as our attention.  

There’s one other way to explain all this.  If you’ve read other stuff about meditation, like the book, Peaceful Piggy, you may have read about letting your breath just do what it ‘wants’ for a while.  For most people, the breath is the easiest thing to pay attention to, without ‘doing’ anything. It’s a way recognize that it’s only this time, only right now, that we’re paying attention to. 

While we’re busy paying attention, we don’t have to actually DO anything.  (WHAT?!) That’s right. Sure, it’s weird to think of paying attention to ‘nothing.’ So it’s not quite totally nothing.  That’s where the breath comes in, because it’s one of the things that our body ‘does’ all the time.  We don’t have to work at it. (Okay, other stuff too, but we’re keeping it polite, here.)  

Here’s where the magic of relaxation comes in.   Ever been so tired that you just HAD to do nothing?  Maybe it was a ‘good’ kind of tired because you played hard or got a big chore done?  That feeling is really close to what meditation feels like. 

‘Noticing’ is an even better word than attention. All we have to do is keep quiet and keep ‘noticing’ what our breath feels like doing, in each moment.  It changes a tiny bit, now and then. That’s got the sticky attention part going. What’s cool is that the floppy relaxation part kind of just spreads itself.  We just let it.

If we notice some particular tense muscle somewhere, hey, flop some jelly on that part — okay not literally. Just let that part relax, especially.  BUT: Just so we don’t fall asleep, we find the most comfortable-but-alert position we can. First time learning this, that might be sitting straight up. It might be in a chair or on a cushion, legs crossed or not. “Is there such a thing as TOO relaxed?”  Well, only in meditation.  If our PB & J sandwich has one whole jar of jelly in it, we won’t get to taste the normal-size layer of PB.

Same principle here: If we’re TOO relaxed, we can’t pay attention. We just fall asleep.  The opposite is kind of disgusting too:  A whole jar of peanut butter in your sandwich means you won’t get to taste the normal-size layer of jelly. (Same thing: If we work SO hard at paying attention, there’s NO WAY we can relax.)

‘Breath’ to the rescue. It’s totally enough, just to keep bringing our attention back to the breath. For sure, our attention will sometimes slop over a bit, to other times besides now (things that happened; things we have to do; things we worry will happen) kind of like a puppy that wants to run here and there to explore. We call our attention back gently and kindly, as we would that puppy.                        . . . Happy breathing!                      

Yours in health and development,

Ken McCallion, Registered, MA, CPsych Assoc

If you have questions or would like to see about an appointment, feel free to use the contact form, below.

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