All that memorizing is so humdrum, so repetitious, I get bored. I daydream. Just a word I come across in the text can send me off. To learn how to focus, Cammie had to first learn how to stay in the moment, on the task at hand. Her thoughts were like unruly children who'd been told to sit still in the center of a room. They kept wandering off, forgetting what had been asked of them. Staying in the moment is in fact a discipline. But there are ways to make it easier. I was looking forward to a quick nap, but there in the miniature seat-back screen, a young woman was conveying an earnest message about the great work the Chinese government was doing to clean up a recent mining cave-in. Although she was fully clothed, she reminded me of the young female models I saw portrayed in the art galleries along Hollywood Road: nude or mostly nude, they positioned bare sections of themselves prettily among pencils and erasers or stood in the snow, holding assault rifles. They were oddly generic, these lean, long-haired females between seventeen and thirty, as if they weren't different women but the same woman-pictograph used over and over, always softening someone else's artistic, commercial, or political agenda. * The irony was that many young, beautiful, and fertile women in Hong Kong were sending an entirely different message with their bodies. Hong Kong's public radio station had recently done a story on the problem of Mainland Chinese women entering Hong Kong as the mistresses of residents and then refusing to leave. Pregnant Mainlanders would wait until labor had started and then give birth accidentally in a Hong Kong hospital. And the Airport Express train we were currently on passed close to Tin Shui Wai, a remote, industryless housing block familiarly known as the City of Sadness. I couldn't see the buildings from the train, but this warehouse of poverty had become notorious earlier in the spring, when one crazed young mother threw her two children, and then herself, out a fifty-story window. Authorities later admitted she was not the first destitute woman to do so. Not only can these feelings have a detrimental effect on their ability to concentrate, but also leaving them unable to sleep or eat. Eventually, this can lead to their confidence levels diminishing and decreasing their ability to keep a positive outlook on their life.
Still, others will choose not to talk about their worries when they are suffering from an anxiety disorder because they don't believe that others will understand what they are feeling. They not only worry that they will be judged by other people, but they also fear that they will be seen as weak. Even though many people suffer from different forms of anxiety disorders, many will choose not to let others in on their secret because they feel like they will be misunderstood. There are certain cases where the sufferer from an anxiety disorder will blame themselves for the way they feel even though it is a natural part of life and helps to protect us from real danger. The good news is that there has been a great deal of research carried out, and is still being carried out, into the different anxiety disorders. As a result, more medical professionals have a better understanding of anxiety orders than they previously had, which allows them to treat the disease and help those who suffer from anxiety disorders cope better. While there are no cures for these kinds of disorders currently, the available treatments can help you feel better and teach you how to handle your anxiety disorder better. As teachers guiding meditations, we are not there to give our students an experience. If not, you will never get any respect from others or yourself. If this is your fate, you will remain in fear for the rest of your life. I should know. I used to be both the coward and the baby. And now I would rather be buried 6 feet under than go back to that pitiful life again. That's how strongly and disgusted I feel about my former past and if you can relate, you should too. This is why this piece of writing is vital to your personal development as you have the opportunity to change your destiny. Let's get to work. There's a lot that needs to be done and you can't waste any more time. The purpose of your next challenge is to continue confronting your fears and, at the same time, eliminate these three very bad traits that have heavily contributed to the life you are so deeply ashamed of. The first step for Cammie was to eliminate the Pied Pipers whom her children kept following. She needed to determine what was luring away her thoughts as she studied.
I gave her a very simple exercise to begin with. In the space of a half hour she was to write down everything that distracted her while she was trying to memorize material for the exam. Every time she switched study environments, she was to get out a new piece of paper. At first she wouldn't do it. I know what I thought about, she insisted. I know how often I got off course. I don't need a piece of paper to remind me. But when she started writing down the distractions she encountered in each different place she studied, she was surprised at what she learned. It wasn't being painted or pinned up on billboards, but this was a message from the female body, too: the ultimate protest. My own life had almost nothing in common with that woman's troubled one, yet I felt in one way connected to her--and to the modest Sabans, the dancer with perfect posture, even the models in paintings and on billboards, and the pretty teenager at the beach. Our female bodies, the public promise of their fertility, and the children they did or did not produce would, in many ways, define our lives. As I looked out at the brilliant green hills of grass speeding by, I tried to imagine a world in which every female body sent healthy, satisfied messages about this truth of womanhood, messages that were more often positive than painful. I couldn't quite imagine that world, but I wanted to. My friend Petra invited me to a girls' night out organized by her Russian club, and I accepted. This wasn't just any old dinner and drinks; it was a dance class, a lap-dancing class. By then I wasn't as hesitant as I might have been earlier in the year--what could embarrass me more than I'd already embarrassed myself? I was also curious about what I'd first noticed living in San Francisco: the woman-driven sexpot renaissance: boudoir photography, recreational stripping, trashy adult Halloween costumes. We are there to facilitate their becoming aware of their own experience. We need to be honest about ourselves.
Do we want to give them a nice time? Do we want them to say nice things to us after the meditation? These are questions we need to ask ourselves. We are there for them, not for ourselves. Paradoxically, this for me is where the pure joy and satisfaction lies in teaching mindfulness. When guiding a meditation, we can make it easier on ourselves by not trying to be too clever. My observation through training people is that we try to be original, we try to give a meditation that has not been given before. It is simpler than that. Since you just got through the last challenge where you applied the four-step courage cycle to enter your fears, it should not be a problem as you start to transition this technique to help you obliterate these three `wussified' traits. However with the next challenge, you may have to make some adjustments with the 4-step courage cycle, as you may or may not get a fearful response when you find yourself avoiding a simple task like having to take out the garbage or walk the dog. If there is no obvious discomfort, uncertainty, threat or fear, you can skip step two and go right into step 3. Let's go through this variation of modifying the 4-step courage cycle in real time: You're at home and playing Fortnight Battle Royale or some other waste-of-time video game. Your girlfriend tells you to get off the couch because she has asked you several times to take out the trash. You don't want to do it because you're in real groove with the game. So you ignore your girl and avoid the task of taking out the trash. When you find yourself trying to talk yourself out of doing a specific task, you must ask yourself if you are willing to do the simple action. If not, you are just feeding into your life as a coward and strengthening your pattern of avoidance. The trick is to link any minimal task that seems to have no meaning to you to your value of becoming courageous. It made me so much more aware of my environment, she said. If I was on my terrace, with the dog loose, the birds out, I'd see the result: I didn't remember much of what I'd studied.
I did much better on the subway, believe it or not. Or in my living room--with the animals locked up--where I couldn't go off on a daydream every time some guy walked down the street. The better you can know what's causing your thoughts to wander off, the better you'll be able to come up with appropriate strategies to thwart them--such as avoiding certain environments altogether. Make a written inventory of every attention-breaker. You may find, as Cammie did, that just the exercise of writing imposes a discipline on your thoughts. The blank piece of paper became a competitive thing for me, she notes. It became a challenge with myself, not to have to write anything down. I'd focus better just so I could end the half hour with an unmarked sheet of paper. Maybe the best way to own the message one's own body sent was to beef up its sexual allure, that is, learn to outfox any pretty sixteen-year-old in a bikini and then walk through the world knowing it. The class was not held in a well-lit yoga or fitness studio, as it might have been in the United States. Instead, it was downhill from our apartment in the dim quarters where abalone were dried and warehoused during the day and where no one seemed to be at eight o'clock on a weeknight. I saw my friend Petra outside the address, and she pulled me into a tiny, crowded elevator filled with high-decibel Russian giggles. The elevator rose, grinding ominously under our combined weight, and then released us into a room kitted out like a dance studio, except it had poles. Poles! Right away, all of us started swinging, climbing, and hanging. Who cared if we were more simian than sexpot; the poles were so much fun! Money was collected, clothes were shed, high heels were strapped on. I do realize that it is understandable to do this at first, but through practice and encouragement, we can acquire the confidence to approach our teaching with simplicity. Really, all we need to do is to drop in a few pointers.