“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” Jon Kabat-Zin
“Meditation is the only intentional, systematic human activity which at bottom is about not trying to improve yourself or get anywhere else, but simply to realize where you already are.” Jon Kabat-Zin
How much time do we spend trying to stop ourselves from thinking negative, painful, thoughts or from feeling upset by something triggering…. And most importantly, does it work?
Don’t think of pink squealing pigs!
….. If you’re like most of us, you just had an image of a pig go through your mind, and that’s around a subject that holds little emotional charge for you! How much harder is it then to do this for a painful subject, and if we succeed for a while it usually results in bottling things up that then spill out painfully in anger and resentment.
It’s pretty difficult to control our painful thoughts, or our emotions, but we can learn to surf the wave, and mindfulness is a key resource to help us to do that.
- Mindfulness involves using a set of tools to focus attention
- It is often focussed on bodily awareness, using tools like watching your breath, feeling your feet on the floor and body scanning
- There is no need to change your thoughts, and emotions – simply witness them
Then they become less dominating, like white clouds on a blue sky. Reading this right now, you may be able to notice the part of you that is conscious of what you are doing – what you are reading, how you are sitting, your surroundings and so on. Not the part that is doing these things, but the part that is aware you are doing them – often called the witness. Right now that is probably in the background. Mindfulness practices help us to move that witness to the foreground. One it is in the foreground, we are less likely to have kneejerk reactions to painful events, and things we have found difficult, even overwhelming, become a lot easier. Eventually it moves from the foreground to being the space that everything happens in, as Isaac Shapiro says, resting AS awareness, rather than resting IN awareness!
- Our habits are to regret the past and worry about the future
- Leading to attention being scattered and unfocussed
- Leading to kneejerk, habitual, reactions to challenging events
- Mindfulness is waking from life on autopilot
When we are not so ruled by our unconscious triggers, we are much better able to deal with lifes’ painful challenges. By helping us to feel centred and grounded in challenging situations, mindfulness helps us to do this.