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The Path is Made When Walking

footprints creating a path down a beach toward a horizon
Image by Midjourney

Walker there is no path, the path is made when walking.

Antonio Machado

This quote reminds me of mindfulness practice.

Initially, there is no path or pathway in the brain that predicts awareness. In fact, it's kind of the opposite, as the brain's default mode is mind-wandering. This is fabulous for creativity, but less fabulous for decision-making and for habits of focus, like concentration.

We make a path by walking.

We make neural pathways the same way — by doing the thing we want to make a neural pathway for. That's what neuroplasticity is; it's the training that leads to rewiring of the brain.

If you want a brain that predicts you'll default to kindness, compassion, non-judgment, and awareness, there are probably two ways to get you there:

1) Psychedelics, which aren't a guaranteed or widely accepted vehicle, but they do show promise and probably need another five years for greater approval; and

2) Practicing kindness, compassion, non-judgment, and awareness.

What was your path to learning how to walk?

You practiced. Every day. For hours. You didn't give up. You fell. A lot. You were . . . motivated.

You may recall my post mentioning BJ Fogg's Tiny Habits. His formula is B-MAP, or, Behavior arises if there is Motivation, Ability, and a Prompt.

What is your awareness practice missing?

Are you motivated? If not, perhaps an incentive would motivate you.

Do you have the ability to practice? Well, if you have access to free, guided practices from 2-48+ minutes, methinks you have the access to guidance.

Mindfulness is difficult for every brain because none of them are wired for it. We have to learn it and practice regularly. (Some brains, particularly ones with thought disorders, can have difficulty with long retreats as well as with learning mindfulness, and I recommend checking with your psychiatrist or therapist if you're wondering whether it's contraindicated for you.)

That leaves a prompt. You can habit stack (this is also from BJ Fogg), where you're adding the desired habit to one that is automatic. Most people talk about toothbrushing here. Right after, or before, or DURING brushing your teeth, you do your awareness practice. You use the existing automaticity and tack something else on top of it.

Maybe you make brushing your teeth into an awareness practice at first, and then move to a sitting practice for five minutes. Maybe you set an alarm. Maybe you use an app. Maybe every time you press Return to open your email you take three mindful breaths.

There are so many ways to work mindfulness into your day that do NOT involve a sitting practice. Maybe you work your way to one after you experience the benefits of micro-dosing mindfulness throughout the day. Maybe your motivation will be so high at that point that you won't let anything stop you.

But for now, if you don't have a consistent practice, you have to figure out what's stopping you. Being human, for instance. There's plenty about that that gets in the way of a consistent practice. Work with your humanity and your faults. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion.

That right there is part of mindfulness.

May ease find you.



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