Mindfulness is becoming very popular at the moment and seems to be mentioned frequently in the media as well as in clinical settings. I’ve been hearing about mindfulness within my own clinical environment for the last 15 years, though didn’t know much about it in the early days.
I personally considered meditation when I was in my early twenties. I bought a couple of books on meditation with an optimistic image in my mind that I would be sitting in total peace and tranquility within a short amount of time and practice. Regrettably this was not the case, and the reality was that I would try to find a peaceful spot to sit and focus inwards, possibly count my breaths, but I would always feel increasing frustration. For some reason I was under the assumption that I was supposed to be able to achieve true stillness of mind and be able to empty my thoughts to just focus on something singular and basic. I was not prepared to accept the reality of the mind as it is.
I have since learned much more, practiced a LOT more, and now know that the goal of meditation, and of mindfulness is not to be able to clear the mind or control the thoughts, but rather start developing an honest and open relationship with my mind as it is.
Now I attempt to meditate everyday, or at least be far more mindful and aware of the nature of my mind, and to aim to be accepting of whatever happens within my thought processes as they are only ever what they are, and cannot be permanently altered.
Mindfulness can be for anyone, and there are a myriad of different practices, sizes for all. It is like any exercise, the more we do it, the more proficient we become in time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t days when it can be as frustrating as hell, but as Andy Puddicombe of the Headspace company says, ‘when we feel calm, we sit and we meditate, when we feel restless and irritable, we still sit and we meditate…’ This is because if we only practice meditation on days when it’s easiest, there’s a whole aspect of the what goes on in our minds we are less aware of or possibly trying to avoid.
Mindfulness suggests that even the most uncomfortable state of mind, thoughts and emotions can be dealt with better if we seek to see it for what is truly going on, rather than as we all do at times, try to take our mind off painful thoughts, memories and feelings with distraction and avoidance techniques.
It is common to experience sensations or internal cognitions such as ‘I feel awful’, or ‘I am worthless’ pass through our minds and emotional senses. The stance of personal curiosity that mindfulness affords can change statements from ‘I am worthless’, to ‘I notice I am having a thought about being worthless.’ This difference in perspective gives some separation from the thought we are having and the person/entity that we are. It can help us to realise that it is just what our mind does, mostly aiming to help solve issues, but some thoughts and emotions if focused on too much can magnify them and make them feel like fact rather than the passing thought/emotion that they are.
Acceptance of the mind allows us to see it like a clear blue sky. It is often clear, blue and lovely, but when it clouds over, or bad weather sets in, it can feel gloomy and depressing. It’s important to note that behind those clouds, storms, wind and rain, the blue clear sky remains, and will return again.
Headspace is just one smart phone/tablet app that is available on Apple and Android and there are many other varieties as well as books and other information. If you choose Headspace however, which is one I personally advocate, and wish to purchase the full version, type in the code CXGETSOMEHEADSPACE for a 25% discount on the full year price.
Happy mindful moments!