Perhaps you have read or heard about Mindfulness. If you have read any of the more popular Buddhists texts by Thich Naht Hanh or Pema Chodren, then you have certainly encountered the idea even if it was called something else. Likewise, if you practice yoga and have ever performed pranayama (breath control/meditation) or seated meditation then you have practiced being mindful.
But, the practice of mindfulness in daily life amidst work drama, family crisis, personal health issues and the rest of life's curves balls takes practice and discipline. I would like to present an unexpected mindfulness tool I recently discovered: Twitter.
Yes, I was one of those people who "didn't get Twitter" and scoffed at the ridiculousness of "saying something in 140 characters or less." I only got my Twitter account (@BethMegill) a couple months ago because I was feeling desperate with my dance company, and knew I needed to try something new to broaden Megill & Company's (MeCo) exposure. So, I created a Twitter account in my name. No hiding behind anything, no ulterior motives. Everyone would know who I was, and I had to be ok with that.
I didn't really post anything until about two months ago. I didn't know about RT (retweets) or hashtags (which I always knew as a pound sign). The, I drew the line and made a decision: I will tweet despite all my concerns and misgivings about it. I have to at least TRY it. At first, it felt weird to post what I was thinking, what I was doing, and what I saw at any given moment, but it gradually became part of my day, and I found that you can say a lot in 140 characters. And, sometimes it is just a pointer to more info which is often very useful/entertaining/interesting.
But, the best and most unexpected benefit of Twitter has nothing to do with my initial motives at all. I discovered that in making Twitter a part of my day, I was making reflection part of my day. Twitter was helping me become more mindful!
I find that Twitter helps me to put things into perspective as I find myself in sticky situations or frustrating states of mind. In deciding what to post, I have to make a decision about what I want to say. And, in deciding what I want to say, I have to make a decision about what is important to say. And, in order to decide what is important to say I have to decide what is import (period!).
This has become an excellent practice of mindfulness. I often wonder what I will tweet next. "Is this important?" "Is this interesting?" "Is this worth sharing?" I realized that these questions were not for any of my "followers" but for myself. Through this reflection, I am really asking: "What is important to me?" "Is what I am doing interesting and worth doing?" "Am I making decisions that I am proud of and will feel comfortable sharing with others?" Twitter makes me accountable to myself. It helps me lead the life I want to live by reminding me to stay true to my beliefs and values.
I find that I have been more relaxed, more productive, more playful, more joy filled, and more interested in general. I see the world as more real because I have my eyes opened. Of course I am excited when someone responds to a tweet (just as I am when you respond with a comment to this blog). It is exciting to think that something I have shared has given someone else joy or a moment for pause and reflection, but ultimately I tweet for myself and what the practice gives me on a daily basis.
We shall see how long this trend lasts, perhaps it is just a phase that will come and go as so many things do. But for now, I am grateful and appreciative of how this program (that I bad mouthed and snickered at for so long) has actually deepened my practices. Thank you Twitter. And, special thanks to those who follow and share in my practice. You are my sangha.