I learned a few things while walking my dog Sasha the other day: 1. She is incredibly bougie, 2. We’ve gotta get out more, and 3. Despite the inglorious task of picking up her poop, I found the whole ordeal therapeutic. It got me thinking about why such a menial task that often makes me gag was such a source of relief. I thought about the normal course of my day and how it usually follows one of two courses: utter busyness or sheer laziness. This dichotomy in our state of being as humans isn’t easily balanced. It’s usually driven by a strong desire to make money or recuperate from those efforts of making money. It’s a draining cycle of monotony in the busyness and laziness. Although both courses of action lend towards spontaneity, they don’t usually leave room for mindfulness, a practice which I find most useful in the decluttering of my mind. This is where walking Sasha becomes key in aiding my mental health. With constant thoughts of homemaking, work efficiency, and ways to escape boredom, I realized I was either being busy or lazy, but I wasn’t always present. I required balance and I had to create a third space.
In my youth, I believed that if I wasn’t doing anything, I was lazy, but if I was busy, I was productive. In the Black community, we are urged to occupy the first space of busyness with this hustler’s mentality instilled in us from youth. As a child, I watched my divorced mom work harder than anyone I know to provide for my brother and me. I’ve watched my uncle work hard to provide for himself and his daughter. I’ve even observed strangers in public as they hustle and bustle down the sidewalks of Newark, New Jersey to their respective 9-5 jobs in hopes of job security and financial stability. The phrase “Working for the weekend” comes to mind, and it saddens me because people are always in a hurry to do nothing, myself included. We’re constantly working to reward ourselves at the end of the workday or the weekend where we get to do nothing. We make these times of nothingness sacred because we feel we’ve earned it when it should be simply because we deserve it. We, humans, have been trained to work on a reward-based system from childhood; if we work hard in school, we get good grades, which is then rewarded with a range of things from parental praise to a new car depending on your social class. This reward learning is a type of reinforcement learning that strives to improve productivity, but all of this talk of productivity makes no room for rest, the third space.
The third space is a carefully cultivated place where one sets aside the time for mindfulness. In a perfect world, I would have a work-life balanced career that fulfills me and supplies for all my financial needs. At this present time, this is not my reality, so I find myself working for the weekend and getting naps where I can like the rest of the population. I thought this was the only way to trudge through my days while sheltering in place until I came across a Lavendaire podcast the other day. In episode 150, Aileen interviewed Leeor Alexandra, who spoke of her early beginnings with spirituality, breathwork, and meditation. Her words brought me back to my childhood and my early love for God without context. When I say without context, I mean I loved God without goading or mention of His love for me. The love and knowing of The Divine was already there, much like Leeor’s experience. Everyone’s experience with The Divine however is not intuitive like ours and requires some education and practical guidance. Leeor reminded me of this and the need to create space for mindfulness. This mindfulness helps me to connect to God and she also reminded me how to alkaline my body through breathwork, a practice I’d long forgotten. After watching her brief video introduction and reading the benefits, I decided to do these exercises and monitor the results for seven days. I can honestly say the test worked. It has truly been a tremendous help in slowing down my thoughts and keeping me mindful. The deep breath in through the gut is carried up to the chest before exhaling. It’s almost like you’re extending one breath into two. I enjoy the exercise because it’s simple and I can do it anywhere at any time.
Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be a drawn out production that occupies your whole afternoon, although that can happen. A lot of guided meditation videos I’ve come across take anywhere from 5 minutes to 35, maybe more. Most days, I don’t have the time, so I practice breathwork while washing dishes or showering. There is something about warm running water that calms me. I also implement it while walking Sasha as walking outside is always therapy for me. Perhaps the next time you are stressed you can try one of these methods. I desire to carry these practical applications of mindfulness through life because it gets stressful. There will be moments where I get lost in my work and familial matters. Others, where I will be likely to forget that I’m not alone in this and help, is all around. It’s the little things however that keep me going, like this furry little face full of love and mischief that makes my heart smile. My openness to love and guidance keep me centered, and an inner knowing serves as a gentle reminder to help me decompress one deep, guided breath at a time. It is this knowledge and love that I pass on to you, praying that you all breathe a bit easier today and every day.