Ninety minutes of WHAT?

I assisted at a weekend workshop recently. I’m a learning junkie, and part of the fun of assisting is the opportunity to jump into class activities when someone needs a partner for peer coaching.

When there’s more than one assistant, you can’t jump in every time. So the assistants agree ahead of time who will participate during which exercise.

Somehow I didn’t realize that the afternoon activity I’d opted out of would last an hour and a half. Gah! You can’t pass the time by reading a book or a blog or by checking email—it’s important for assistants to be mentally as well as physically present, aware of the mood in the room, and available in case the workshop leaders need anything.

An hour and a half! Of not getting to coach while others are having all the fun. Of not having anything to do, really, except be present (sigh) and wait for the time to pass.

Sounds like some mindfulness might be in order. C’mon, I’ve been on retreats where I spent whole days without reading or talking. I got through that OK.

So I tuned in to what I was experiencing, inside and out. Not to fix it, just to observe. Turmoil! Crushing disappointment! Fear of unending boredom! Envy at the people getting to play!

I rode the waves of emotion. I heard the rumble of the air conditioner and felt the cold air on my skin. I became aware of the pleasant buzz of people interacting. I felt a rush of delight at the intensity of their focus. Disappointment burst back, co-mingling with appreciation for the spirit of the students in the room.

It took a lot of energy to be mindful for 90 minutes! Afterward, I felt encouraged and open and grounded. I keep hearing about the value of bringing attention to my moment-to-moment experience, and I keep not quite knowing how I’m “supposed” to practice it in daily life. I guess that’s how.

It’s interesting to note how hard I work to avoid being bored…or disappointed. It’s useful to know that those feelings don’t have to demolish me.



  1. I too have “infolust” and love to “play”. I admire your focus and learning about mindfulness!

  2. Janet Bailey says:

    @Connie — “infolust” is a great word!

  3. Ruby says:

    Ha ha 🙂 I love the way you express yourself. Very entertaining to read and very real. 🙂

  4. There are theories saying that people should spend 60 minutes on meditation every day. Or at least try to sit 60 minutes without thinking about anything, moving etc.
    It’s like switching off your mind and body…

  5. Janet Bailey says:

    @Ruby, thanks!

    @successfulandhappy – Yes, daily meditation can help people navigate situations like this one. Sixty minutes is great for those who are open to it, though it can seem daunting if you’re new to being still. I started with 5 minutes and built up from there.
    Clarification: meditation, as I understand it, isn’t about trying not to think—that’s a common misconception that leaves a lot of people frustrated and believing that meditation isn’t for them. As I understand meditation, it involves noticing that you’ve gotten caught up in your thoughts, and then returning your attention to the initial focus you’ve chosen (which might be your breathing, sounds in the environment, or any sensations that come to the fore moment by moment, to name just a few). Attention drifts again and again, and you keep returning to the focus. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed—it means you’re meditating. 😉

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