The concept of Mindfulness sounds so nice and delicious, being in a state of calmness and awareness while the chaos of the world crashes around you. Being in a full state of saying ‘yes’ to whatever is happening, where you can be open and accept the activities of the present moment with a grace of a swan – Yes that’s for me.
Unfortunately wanting to achieve such a state is the great paradox of practising mindfulness, you don’t need to do anything except notice, watch and let go. When you do that, ease and grace and happiness bubble up without you having to do anything. That’s easier said than done though.
While I’m no Eckhart Tolle or Jon Kabat Zinn, I’ve had my own fair share of run ins with mindfulness practise where I’ve been at the rough edge of my own judgement and felt the raw sting of personal punishment, yet also savoured the incredible insights and wisdom to be found in just ‘being me’. For those that are trying to practise the rather complicated art of mindfulness, here are a few little tips I’ve picked up along the way that may or may not be of help.
Watching yourself lose it.
How many times have you felt yourself start to get angry at someone and you hear that little voice in your head carry on like a pork chop and you’re noticing it and but you can’t seem to control it. You know you’re about to say something you’ll regret, you even try and talk yourself out of saying it, but then BAM!, you hear the words of vitriol at someone come pouring out like you’ve been possessed by some crazy spirit.
This is where you have to put your ‘amazing’ hat on and just sit back in the sheer wonder that you’ve noticed that you’ve noticed yourself, doing something that you’ve been able to notice. That is one of the most amazing things for a human being to do. That first noticing step is the ‘one giant leap for mankind’, so well done you! Now you then have to get all deep and try and work out which is the real you, the part that notices or the part that sprouting off about the silly driver in front of you? I mean, if you could notice you, then who is you?
Putting the judging cart before the horse.
The next thing that usually happens after you’ve sprayed vitriol at someone or realised you’ve slipped back into calling yourself stupid or fat, we judge ourselves. We’ve made the incredible achievement to notice something about our inner world, but that’s not good enough, we have to then judge what we’ve noticed and then put it into different compartments and analyse it.
To avoid the destructive judging reaction, try and become the cadet reporter and get your left brain to just ‘take notes’ on what happening, without judging it. A reporter only reports, doesn’t add opinion or personal commentary, so let your inner cadet journalist grab the notebook and pencil and start taking notes.
The fight to be gentle on yourself.
After you’ve elevated yourself to the status of Judge, Jury and executioner in the one instant moment it’s now time to punish yourself and punish yourself severely.
“I’m a bad person”
“I failed at mindfulness”
“I’m not very spiritual”
And your natural demeanour will dictate how long you self flagellate for. For some people it can be only a few minutes, for others it’s just another nail in the coffin of their long term happiness aspirations. It’s like Jewish guilt and Catholic martyrdom rolled into one and you’re destined to carry the load for all eternity.
In reality, it’s all made up. You don’t have to punish yourself at all. In fact you should rejoice in the fact that you noticed you ‘lost it’ and then be renewed because next time you just might catch yourself earlier. It takes bravery to stop judging ourselves so harshly, but we must be brave otherwise we won’t be able to make any progress.
Starting over again, and again and again.
“It can’t be that easy? Just start again in the next moment?”
“What? What about punishment?
“I shouldn’t be able to get away with what I did, I need to mull it over, think about it deeply and then think about what bad person I’ve been. I can’t just let it go and start again?”
Yep, that’s all you need to do. Start again. Let go of judgement, punishment and any thoughts about the last moment, simply start noticing what’s happening in THIS moment.
You let go of the anchors of the past and future and simply smile at the sound of the birds, notice train of thought about what an awesome weekend it was running through your head and enjoy the smell of the coffee brewing. The funny thing about letting go is that we think we’re missing out on something, because we’ve been conditioned to think linearly, backwards and forwards and that’s where our identity lies, but once you start to be the ‘noticer’ and do it gently, you notice that life isn’t linear, it’s vertical, it’s spacious, it’s multidirectional, it’s multidimensional.
A sense of freedom from past conditioning arises where you can unshackle yourself from old beliefs, habits, thought patterns and destructive behaviours. You may not change anything, but you now have the choice to change and that makes the biggest difference.
How do you do it again? I was distracted by the idiot over there.
Mindfulness is not about living an austere life devoid of emotions and any fun, it’s about giving you mental space to make well informed choices and observations about yourself and deconstruct the solid personality of this incarnation, so you can live lighter, honestly, more authentically and prevent getting ‘stuck’ in belief systems.
You also open yourself to love, but that’s another story for another day.
Josh Langley is the author of “Dying to Know – is there life after death?” (released in October through Big Sky Publishing) and two illustrated books on finding happiness, Frog and the Well – Unconventional Happiness and Follow Your Heart – Everyday Wisdom for an Extraordinary life (Big Sky Publishing). He also writes about happiness for several magazines and blogs around the world.