Some reflecting on my own Mindfulness Practice
So, the one and only way to experience mindfulness is through the self. It is an experiential. It is not something that can be directly taught following a lesson plan with an expectation or predetermined goal at the end. The reason for this is that mindfulness is just that… it is being in the moment with whatever is there in the moment with you. It is experiencing being you and learning from this if you choose.
Awareness is one of the tools to pick up, along with paying attention and having a non- judgemental attitude to whatever is with you, be it thoughts, feelings or body sensations and this attitude is key to the ongoing practice, developing self-compassion for ourselves and others along the way.
Since starting on my own journey, life has changed quite dramatically. Especially in areas that have always been nagging and filling my mind, entangled with emotions and attachment, trapped in patterns and maintaining habitual behaviours. Through mindfulness I was able to step back from myself enough to witness the confusion and familiar thoughts and behaviours that kept me feeling stuck. I stepped back enough to feel my pain, my sorrow and by doing so became so much more aware of my choices which gave me strength to make different ones.
My meditation practice kept me grounded. I allowed myself to be with the feelings, to experience them in the moment and discovered the fluidity of them that they were not as I expected them to be. They were not solid and heavy, fixed and stuck but changeable and sometimes momentary in length not long and draw out. I realised that it was my thoughts that languished and wallowed not the feelings themselves. The distinction came out of curiosity and inquisitiveness and above all noticing with a non-judgmental attitude …none of the “ get a grip Fran “ more like let me just feel this sensation let me connect with it in the body and notice what my mind is saying.
Reading this back to myself it sounds easy this mindfulness practice, just notice this and that, however it wasn’t easy and now years on, I am still having to allow myself to stop and be with painful and uncomfortable feelings and emotions. (This will never stop as it is part of life). I believe what has changed is my perspective towards my thoughts. The type of conditioning that can interrupt the healing process, thoughts that have been integrated deep into my psyche and personality. It is only with consistently bringing myself back to the present moment and through meditation practice which brings clarity to my senses and helps me to view myself in a calmer and more subtle way without emotionally over reacting, that I can identify, sometimes untangle or unravel the threads of confusion and gain insight before behaving in such a way that adds to my suffering.
We cannot escape life, the ups and downs, the highs and lows which ever analogy you choose… taking the rough with the smooth, they all refer to life and the fact is at some point being a human being will mean we will encounter illness, pain, death, loss, suffering it is inevitable. We will also have joy, happiness, connectedness, contentment, perhaps bliss and so forth. This human state is curious that is for sure. ..Just the other day whilst facilitating on the MBSR course during the inquiry process a participant described being mindful whilst driving her car, her experience bought her attention to her feet on the pedals, her hands on the wheel the texture of the steering wheel covering, the engine sounds idling at junctions then changing with the increase in speed. She described noticing the trees as she passed and the joy of hearing Led Zeppelin like she had never heard it before. Jon Kabat Zinn says, “we can cheat ourselves out of living our lives fully”, a simple car journey can be so much more when paying attention. Imagine then other areas in life when being truly present is worthy of attention. All perhaps!!