Some days, when all is too still for time, I can see my heartbeat.
Usually it’s right over my chest, in the slight wave of the shirt I’m wearing. It’s almost like a ripple of water, the way the beat expands throughout the fabric, then settles again. I don’t consciously pay attention to it, but once I notice the slight, steady movement, it’s hard to look away. It’s hard to ignore the one sort of movement always present on your body, always felt, always known.
It’s a comfort, then, that I can easily make myself aware of it. In the midst of writing this, I’ve watched it perhaps half a dozen times already. I don’t keep an effortful count of the beats, just letting it fade from one, two, three, four, and so on. Sometimes I like to wait for it to line up with the tempo of the music I’m currently listening to, holding my breath or taking a deeper one to let them align for just a moment. It’s a distraction, but one that grounds me, within my own body. It brings me out of my thoughts and into the present, a present that never stops.
I’ve always struggled with the concept of mindfulness and being solidly within the present moment, without trying to focus on any one thought or idea in my head. I first learned of the concept during middle school, when they first began holding seminars and lessons on mental health across classes. At the time, despite my own struggles with anxiety and doubting my own future, I brushed it off as ‘cheesy’ or unimportant. I didn’t put in effort for their mandatory sessions of deep breathing or muscle relaxation, quickly getting uncomfortable and feeling the need to fidget in my seat. Only for one session out of a thousand would I actually feel the effects of mindfulness, and that was it.
Going into high school, it seemed that my inability to still my thoughts was exacerbated by my newfound passion for story writing, as my head was even more flooded with plots and characters I could write into existence. I was much more confident and excited with myself and my work, but feeling no more at peace with the present world. Even as I came to understand that it was necessary for me to try and work on being content and okay with where I was in the now, meditation was still a massive struggle. I could only keep up daily meditation for so long until I decided it was a waste of time and I wanted to be more productive. I just wanted to concentrate on my goals- goals that vastly outweighed any desire for contentment.
After a while, I became so fed up with this half-hearted cycle that I gave up on mindfulness entirely, opting to just focus on whatever it was that I truly wanted to focus on in the moment. I wanted to write, I wanted to socialize, I wanted to do whatever it was that I felt like doing. I wanted to return to living without another requirement for myself to carry. However, to my surprise, that drive for daily life began to create little, random pockets of mindfulness for me throughout my days without even trying.
Focusing on my heartbeat has become one of those random pockets, given how easy it is to do in any setting. I don’t know when it exactly started, but whether it’s loud or silent, light or dark, I can find a way to let my body fall still, and let each pump of blood flow throughout my nerves. Sometimes I feel the beat in my fingers, my head, my chest- anywhere possible, I can pay attention to before it moves on. It doesn’t require the physical pressure of slow, steady breathing, nor the intense concentration of relaxing one muscle at a time. But it feels like a form of mindfulness just the same, in just paying attention to a constant that happens so naturally .
I still wouldn’t say I actively practice mindfulness. But when the moment happens upon me naturally, without me trying to change its course, I can just embrace it. I can embrace the stillness, and within it, the beat that never .