As some of you read about earlier, I have been learning from Linda Graham’s work on mindfulness as an approach to end toxic shame. It’s a long, slow process and I’m still working on the first step. Today I was thinking about how that practice interacts with what I wrote about yesterday–my efforts to understand what triggers involuntary violent images in my head or the urge to hurt myself. I am realizing that paying attention to what I’m feeling in a given moment is a mindfulness practice as well.

I had such a good day at work today, the best since my return to work. I spent a good part of the day working with a smart colleague, pulling together data from community focus groups, a survey of 3000 parents, and administrative data from a school district into a coherent presentation to help the school district leadership think more deeply about racial and ethnic inequities as well as challenges facing low income or immigrant families as well as students with disabilities. It’s rewarding work, with analytic challenges, lots of creative thinking about how to communicate effectively and to anticipate their reactions and concerns, and a strong sense of purpose. We believe the district is ready to make some major changes that could improve opportunities for a lot of students and that helping them understand all this data can help inform their decisions. This is the reason I stepped away from senior management, so I could do this rather than administrative *%&(.

And I didn’t have any of those intrusive images or urges to hurt myself today. When I was spending my time in ways aligned to my values and interests, I felt well.

Toward the end of the day, I started to get tired, and I know exhaustion undermines my well-being. I took a short break–just five minutes–and meditated a little, drawing on the warm, loving feelings I get from my husband’s steady support (the closest thing to unconditional love I have ever experienced). I can’t say that I have that meditation piece down entirely. But here’s an unexpected plus: I can (sometimes) summon that feeling even when I’m not meditating. I can walk from my cube in the office downstairs to a conference room, and during that short walk, I can wrap myself in the feeling of love.

I’m curious to see if I will also be able to conjure up those feelings on a day when I am less happy about what I’m dealing with at work.

mindful definition