I volunteered at the Project EATS farm on Wards Island this past week, shoveling compost and weeding. It was great to simultaneously be one with nature and give back, like a soul warming CrossFit workout. Unfortunately, I came home with more than a bag of freshly harvested squash. This Peter Piper picked a peck of poison ivy.
While the Benadryl soothes my body, a tool I learned for meditating, mental noting, calms my mind. When I catch myself thinking “you should’ve worn long sleeves and jeans for protection” or “you’re going to be itchy forever,” I make a gentle mental note. I say to myself “now there's a thought” or simply “thinking.” This interrupts my mind’s wandering, and my awareness returns to the here and now.
In her book Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, Sharon Salzberg describes mental noting as “a way to acknowledge briefly what is arising in the present moment.” She goes on to explain how it serves three purposes:
- Awareness: Puts space between you and the thought or feeling and allows you to move on
- Feedback: Identifies whether you’re labeling thoughts and feelings with judgement or acceptance
- Perspective: Reminds us that this too shall pass
We'll talk more about mental noting soon. It’s a real good one. For this week, remember that mental noting is available. If you find yourself feeling anxious, take a moment to note what’s going on inside and see if that allows you to let go, even a little.