One of the rich experiences of writing a blog is that whatever I am working on, contemplating, noticing or even exposed to – by self or others – becomes a topic for the week, calling me to explore it more deeply. And in my reflection you have told me that you enjoy your own resonances and reflections. Thank you.
This week, with a touch of irony, it is mindfulness. I write this having just returned the clinic keys, which I have absentmindedly taken home with me – twice this week!
I first learnt about mindfulness in 1996 from Chinese Medical Doctor, Andrew Lim, who was teaching me about chi and qigong and meditation. It was not the panacea in the Western world that it is today, but it was the start of my life-change – who knew paying attention to the breath could bring about such awareness.
For me, mindfulness is the foundation tool from which all self-exploration might step. Whether you’re Buddhist or not, the very act of mindfulness practice in the every day brings with it a range of beneficial flow-ons.
Mindfulness really isn’t advertised in a way that appeals to the average person. It’s certainly become the ‘fix-all’ in particular branches of the medical and natural therapies fields, but it still isn’t sexy.
Folk I talk with about mindfulness think it’s hard work, sitting still and trying not to think. But when they learn about the benefits, they’re sometimes ready to explore a little more…
- less stress
- understanding and decreasing anxiety
- greater mental focus and clarity
- increased concentration
- increased harmony
- better relationship with self and others
- first steps in spiritual and psychic awareness and development
- greater inner harmony
- more energy, and
- increased sense of wellbeing, among much else…
I used to run a group in Melbourne called Mindful Living. Working in community health meant that of the ten or so people attending the group each 8 weeks, most were experiencing anxiety, had been diagnosed with mental health conditions, some had been homeless, and others survived violent relationships.
Each one of the people in that group made significant life changes based on their experiences of mindfulness practice and understanding how their thoughts and feelings impacted their behaviour and choices.
From the smallest shift in one person contributing to the group, to larger ones that saw individuals able to do their own shopping or leave the house without a carer or assistant.
Mindfulness of course is not just for folk who experience anxiety. Mindfulness practice helps us to become aware of the ways our unconscious processes animate our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, as well as becoming more aware of our external world and how we interact with it.
And mindfulness is not just about meditation, and sitting still for hours in the lotus position. Mindfulness practice can occur at anytime throughout the day, during any activity – inner and outer.
However, regular mindfulness meditation does enhance our ability to be present and to notice the flow of inner and outer experience in the moment.
Regular practice enables us to watch what is coming to us and how we are responding or reacting. By noticing in this way, we are free to make choices more suited to our wellbeing.
In my mindfulness practice this week I realised that my needs are particular to me. My design is particular to me. And therefore, my alignment is something only I can make happen and be.
In this age of modern gurus and online social marketing, the personal development world has taken a giant step into our living rooms and everyday life.
We are bombarded by ‘opportunities’, ‘experts’, ‘fixes’, ‘the best evers’, emails, advertisements, groups, events and the like. I noticed how easily the sales pitches and invitations to participate, learn and know more, can spin me out of our trajectory and distance me from our alignment with Source and Self.
As I write this, an email pings into my Inbox with the heading ‘OMG!! Exclusive Offer! Are you in?’
During my meditation practice I noticed that the things I was reaching for were distractions. They widened the distance from my alignment – from the place I feel my authenticity and self-knowing.
That’s not to say that all the material is harmful or distracting; there will be some that suits me just fine, and from which I will benefit. Through my mindfulness practice, I am better able to discern which they are, and not get swept up in the current of ‘must be more’ or ‘ooo, that looks interesting…’.
While I was writing this, I came upon a timely video about a London artist celebrating his black female friends by spray-painting their likeness around London*. Dreph, the artist, finished his interview by referring to the world’s current political climate and the great desire that many of us have to help in some way:
‘I think we’re all under pressure to be other than ourselves, and that when we are feeling that pressure to be other than who we are, if we can just remember that we are enough, then that will go a long way.’
From my mindfulness meditation practice this week, my state of being shifted out of need, want and getting, to simply being…
In my state of being, I am able to respond to that which gravitates towards me. I observe it and notice whether it fits with who I am or whether it takes me away from my enoughness. And you can do the same.
Among so much else that mindfulness practice is beneficial for, the very act of observing our thoughts, feelings, sensations in the moment, can help us to know that we are enough.
And from that place of enoughness, we can take action available to us – whatever that is and however small or large – to contribute to making our beautiful planet sustainable and harmonious for all beings.
There are generally local Buddhist centres in large towns and cities offering free introductory classes to mindfulness meditation and practice. The Mindfulness Association in the UK offers paid classes, as does the Salisbury centre in Edinburgh. There are many online courses available, and I will have one up and running by the end of September. If interested, just let me know. Meantime, may you find peace in the moment…
* Drugh Artist Interview: http://www.thefader.com/2017/08/07/dreph-artist-female-friends