It isn’t called a mindful practice for nothing. Being mindful takes practice every day, especially the practice of practising to be mindful! Over time I have found that it becomes the norm and the default way of being, just like not being mindful did once too. Although there are days when you might find yourself on complete auto pilot or having somehow sunk into a little pool of negativity at ‘lostville’, it is a joyful feeling to know that mindfulness is only a moment away to bring you back to present and where you can experience joy…even in the not so joyful moments. It is almost as though the practice itself nudges you back to it when you have ‘been away’ for a day or two.
This week I’ve had two separate conversations that have led to the same thing. At the time what came to me didn’t seem surprising and when I tell you about it you might think it is not mind blowing, but what it does, is…here’s what happened.
I am a meditation and mindfulness ambassador. I avoid preaching. There isn’t a meditation and mindfulness bible that I go bashing over people’s heads, but there seem to be more and more occasions when I am given an opportunity to share the benefits and become the stepping stone for someone to find their own meditation and mindfulness practice. At times it isn’t even that; it’s just a little something in the midst of the day where I am given a chance to pass on a little meditation or mindfulness sparkle.
The first conversation was around addiction. Sometimes I don’t like to put my own experiences of addiction across because I don’t want it to seem like I am negating the other person’s experience. At times, however, if I say, I understand, I can truly mean that and relay why I understand. The thing is, not everything works for everyone and so what helped me break the cycle of addiction might not help someone else.
Our conversation continued on and she explained to me that when the thoughts came she couldn’t break them. It became impossible to go against what the thoughts in her head were guiding her to do. It doesn’t matter what you are addicted to, the cycle of addiction is usually the same.
I said that when you are thinking in that way you are not present. She didn’t understand what I meant. I continued that, to be in your head means you are not in your body. You cannot be in both at the same time. If you can get out of your head and into your body you can be present. She is literal in her thinking and so the subtlety of what I was saying was missed.
I paused for a minute and allowed myself to be fully present focusing on how to explain in literal terms how to get out of your head, to break the thinking cycle, and into your body, to become present….and suddenly, it came to me.
I asked her, while showing her, to give her a visual explanation as well, to dig her nails gently into the palm of her hands.
“What can you feel?” I asked.
“My nails digging into the palm of my hands.” she replied.
“The only thing you can think about in this moment is that.” I said.
She smiled as though a light bulb just went on, “I get it.”
I explained that it doesn’t matter what it is, she could click her fingers, rub two fingers together on one hand or gently pinch her arm. The point was to bring herself to being present. When she is then present, to focus with awareness on other sensations in her body and what is going on around her. It would be enough to break the cycle of thinking. This of course is a practice in itself, but by practising mindfulness in this way, over time, she could begin to break the cycle of thinking. With the benefits that mindfulness brings she may start to make better choices and ultimately change her thinking and over time, break the addictive cycle. This is a simplistic explanation. Addiction is not something that is easy to overcome, but mindfulness helps and works. The literal explanation to get out of the head and into the body, however, is powerful.
Fast forward a few days and I was once again, today, faced with a similar situation, talking to someone about their anxiety…and suddenly it came to me.
[This image was taken at the top of a mountain trail in California]