Are you one of the thousands of Americans frantically searching for hand sanitizer? Maybe you’re even on several customer alert lists to be notified when hand sanitizer comes back in stock. Unfortunately, I’m in the same boat with you, I don’t have a secret stockpile in my garage than I can freely offer. However, I did want to take a minute and reflect with you on the act of using hand sanitizer.
When you’re going about your day, there are probably times you’re stopping periodically to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands. So, what’s happening in these moments? Well, you’ve probably just touched something or been out in public. You probably have a concern that there may be some sort of contaminant on your hands and you want to get it off. So, you physically stop what you’re doing and make the choice to go clean your hands. During the act of cleaning your hands, you’re putting a product on them that will help to remove or wash away these various particles: germs, dirt, food, dog slobber, etc. Once finished, you can continue the rest of your day with a sense of cleanliness; you’re starting fresh—for a little while. You’ve intentionally taken the time to clear off the outside of your hands and create a “blank slate.” Then you move on with your day, you touch unclean things again and so you go back to the act of washing your hands. Rinse and Repeat. Many of us go through these motions without ever taking the time to reflect on what we’re doing.
I want to encourage you to imagine applying these same principles to your internal world—what’s going on inside of you. The act of being mindful means to slow down and notice what’s happening to you, within you, and around you, at any given moment and to not judge the experience, but to just notice it. Just like pausing to wash or sanitize your hands because of the physical particles on them, when you stop and tune in mentally, you’ll notice things like worries, emotions, and internal dialogues that are filling up your headspace. I want to encourage you to take a minute, or maybe just start with the 20 seconds it takes to wash your hands, and be quiet and look at what’s happening in your body. Starting off it may be difficult if you’re not used to reflecting inwardly. So, you may just notice an itch on your shoulder or a rumble in your stomach. As you continue to practice, your “mindfulness muscle” will grow stronger. You may start to notice, “hm, that pit in my stomach is happening again, and I’m also thinking about the fact my senior may not have a graduation ceremony.” You may begin to notice that you’re replaying an argument with your significant other and wishing what you would have said—and come to think of it, you’ve been rehearsing and rehashing this all morning!
No telling what you will personally discover, but once you discover it, then you have the power to do something about it. There are tools to help you settle that pit in your stomach or to pause the incessant dialogues you may be plagued by. If you want to be able to get to that same “blank slate” internally, the first step is tuning in to what’s actually going on inside.