In mindfulness meditation, the instruction is to choose an anchor that will keep you present and bring you back to the present when your mind has wandered. Most of the time that anchor is the breath. But staying with the breath as the mind goes off in a million directions is, as Tara Brach says, “…basic and it’s hard.”
Things are different here in my new place. The hot water’s on the right, the refrigerator door opens on the left, the stove is electric, I share a wall with neighbors, I have a garage, there’s carpet in the bathroom, I have cable, and the walls are made of plaster. And because the walls are plaster, anything I want to hang must be anchored.
In bed this morning, meditating and watching the sun rise through the blinds, I thought, ‘I am a plaster wall.’
I need anchors.
Until today, I hadn’t exercised in two weeks and I’ve weighed in twice. I’ve eaten pretty much on plan, but not as consciously as usual. Between the move and a couple of medical issues, I haven’t had the time or energy to do anything except deal with my life. I’ve moved through these last few weeks feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Years ago when I lost weight, my usual MO when times were tough was to follow the free fall into its usual abyss of easy comforts. This time, at least, I’ve had enough sense to grab on to the sides and pull myself back up.
When I worked out this morning, I felt anchored again, like I’d come home, come back to the breath, come back to the present moment. Making soup and paprikash and omelets and other familiar foods this week has helped me stay anchored, too. So does the company of people who “get it.” People who understand the whole weight thing.
In a recent blog, Debby from Debby Weighs In posted something that felt like an anchored breath. Here’s a bit of what she wrote:
“So, when I went to the gym last Wednesday, and weighed four pounds over my current maintenance goal, I have to admit it threw me for a loop…I wanted to restrict my diet severely. I wanted to exercise it off. I also wanted to eat myself into oblivion. But I didn’t do anything. I just kept eating the same way I usually do (healthy, moderately,) and I just kept exercising like I always do…
“Sunday…I got up early and headed to the gym for a workout, but mostly to weigh myself and see what the situation was. My weight was DOWN five pounds, one pound less than my maintenance goal. Disaster averted.
“But was disaster ever really there? I went on to have a most vigorous workout, buoyed on by my ‘big loss.’ I wanted to eat to celebrate. I wanted to up my exercise. But I didn’t. I ate the same way I always do.”
Disaster in this weight-loss/maintenance journey might feel eminent, but disaster is never really there if our anchors are in place. Anchors keep us present. They keep us mindful of why we eat and move the way we do. Anchors hold our plaster walls in place. But staying anchored is as basic as it is hard.
So what are your anchors? What keeps you from freefalling on this path?