The Mindfulness Blog

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Sentinel Surveillance

Observing, watchfully. Remaining alert. Being curious and discerning. We could be talking about the next phase of the present health pandemic-- remember that? Or, we could be talking about meditation and the heightened state of awareness that regular practice can help us achieve-- mindfulness.

Contrary to what a lot of people may think, meditation is not about emptying the mind. And it's not about sense deprivation. Quite to the contrary, meditation is brain-training through observation of the mind and body, as they process all the experiences that our five senses capture. It's also about recognizing and feeling the emotions we're feeling. Meditation is really quite simple-- but it's not easy.

Silence and stillness are essential to meditation. They're also important to "sentinel surveillance", which is a new concept to me. Oddly enough, the two words, standing alone, carry a sense or connotation that is vaguely uncomfortable, but joined together, they are actually reassuring. The word, "sentinel" conjures up something wary and militaristic, to me. The word, "surveillance" suggests something ominous and Orwellian. Together, however, the two words lose those more chilling associations and assume a character that is somehow more humane. More sustaining.

As we adjust to the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic, the notion of "sentinel surveillance" will no doubt become a lot more familiar-- part of our new normal. And maybe, while we're transitioning to that new normal, we can also adjust our exercise regimen, to take five minutes less for our body, and five minutes more for our mind. Five minutes for some one-on-one sentinel surveillance (a/k/a, meditation)!

Most of us have had the experience of finding ourselves in a meditative state in the midst of physical exercise-- "finding the zone". Why not make a few minutes for meditation while we cool down from our physical exercise, so "the zone" doesn't remain something that is erratic and unpredictable? Why not engage in a bit of brain-training that can help us find "the zone" more regularly, and more predictably?

We've all heard about the potential benefits of "reframing". Reframing a thought, or reframing an old habit-- how about reframing our exercise regimen, to combine mental/emotional fitness with physical fitness?

Who ever imagined that sentinel surveillance (meditation) could also help us, "find the zone"?


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