It can be interesting to reflect on how we start our day. At the last Saturday Sit I recounted my experience the day before of having been taken to task over a certain issue.
It is very easy when these events occur for the thinking mind to go to town, adding a whole load of thoughts and judgements which don’t help very much in that moment but only serve to strengthen that tendency we have to take things personally. I am this, I should have done that , I did that etc etc….I think we’ve all been there.
What actually helped in that moment was giving some of my attention to the body. Directing my attention into the sensations the body sitting allowed me to hold that whole experience, to process it in a more helpful way than allowing my thinking mind to get busy. It was not avoidance of the issue but allowing a different way of processing the same stuff. I wasn’t trying work with the issue or solve it in that moment by going into the body-when there is a lot of anxiety or judgement going on that can be too difficult. Its often enough just to be with your experience, to allow it to be there, without adding further fuel to the fire.
We know that if you do nothing, any mood whether it be anger,or sadness or joy will pass in around 90 seconds. It is what we add to it with our thinking mind that has the power to solidify that mood and keep it present for much much longer.
So back to Waking Up!
The next morning when I opened my eyes there were lots of thoughts present and a re-running of that episode and all the possible implications.
I’ve learnt through Mindfulness practice to recognise that this sort of rumination rarely solves the issue and if not addressed may well colour the whole day. And I had a Saturday Sit to get ready for too!
I decided instead to take my dog for a walk around a local field and to direct my attention away from the confines of my mind and outwards to the beauty of nature,the wind on my face and the feel of the ground underfoot amongst others.
At the end of the 20 minute walk I felt very different.
There are so many things that Mindfulness practice teaches us. We can often think of it as simply a training in attention. That would be doing a great a dis-service to the depth of the training you all have undergone and continue to do so each time you sit and practice.
But although the fact that you are still reading this may suggest you recognise the benefits Mindfulness has had in your life, it can be difficult to articulate exactly how.
As a Mindfulness teacher I am fortunate to attend courses and retreats where I have deepened my understanding of what it is that we are learning. And I spent some of the Saturday Sit recounting a couple of psychological traits that we are learning through Mindfulness practice.
One psychological function we are developing is that of Awareness, which is experienced as a spatial dimension to the experience of an object or situation.
Practising sensing the whole body breathing,or the wider appreciation of sounds or the natural world whilst out on a walk can help us to use that it in our everyday lives when things get tough. Sensing my body when I was taken to task was actually very helpful.
A metaphor that can be helpful is that sense of standing at the edge of a cliff surveying the panorama ahead of you.
The other helpful psychological function we are developing as we practice Mindfulness is that of Vigilance or Protective Awareness, which is the quality of being awake, observant and scanning to what may or may not be helpful in a given situation.
A metaphor here would be of a Gatekeeper to one of those old hilltop walled cities,only letting in that which is helpful to the wellbeing of the city and kindly turning away those who would do harm to the city. Deciding to go for a walk that Saturday morning instead of that habit I have developed over many years to ruminate that bit longer on an issue, was an example in practice of how that can help.
So after that walk things had changed. And it didn't happen by forcing the problem away,rather allowing it to fall away itself.In someway the grip had loosened. And I talked a little bit about it all at the Saturday Sit before we practised for half an hour.
I had a wonderful Saturday!
So often we wake up and start the day with a worry,or check our phones and our emails before we have even had a cup of tea. We have a choice but we have become so habituated to less helpful ways of starting the day that we forget what might be more helpful for us.
Mindfulness practice can seem like another chore to do to add to the list in the morning. It doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe when you wake up tomorrow, before you leap out of bed, spend a few moments becoming aware of the sensations of your feet and your legs in the bed, the sensations of warmth, spend a few moments with your breath. There you go , thats your Mindfulness practice for the day!
Don't make it into a big task,and if it feels ok, you may choose to spend a minute or two longer and see how that sets your morning up.
Making the move to wherever you practice your “formal” Mindfulness is always the most difficult step, so just aim to sit for a few minutes initially,and if it feels ok then maybe stay a bit longer.
Ultimately its about bringing all of this into our everyday lives where the real fruits of your practice will show up.
In a very real way its about Waking up to this one life we have and living it as fully as we can.
I’ll be talking a little bit more about other helpful psychological traits we are learning as we practice Mindfulness at this week’s Saturday Sit, but of course most importantly actually doing some practice. If you’re free why not see what it’s like to start your weekend in this way.