When I say I’ve learnt about and taught mindfulness, there is frequently some sort of reaction from people, usually hinting at some sort of deep wisdom. A few years ago, I also would have probably equated someone who had trained in mindfulness as having many of the answers to the universe, as someone who is pretty calm about life, unfazed by the day-to day petty things that can frustrate.
The actual journey is a little different though.
Simply put, the keys of mindfulness are non-judgement and watching your thoughts and feelings as they rise moment to moment, a thousands-year old concept somewhat reignited by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s. The core concepts sounded all too easy, until I learnt the essence of where mindfulness could take me; it was a deep listening to myself, really deeply truly listening to all my thoughts and feelings and allowing for them to pop up, like corks in water.
Listening to yourself and acknowledging and making space for all of your feelings and thoughts is something that we seldom do or make time for in our automated tick-the box driven world. When I started, this is what it sounded like in my head:
Sitting for so long is pretty uncomfortable. What am I meant to be thinking about? Oh, right, I’m just meant to be watching my thoughts. What did my teacher say? Something about saying ‘hello’ to them. I’m probably doing it wrong. Dammit! I’m judging myself and that’s the whole thing, right? No judgement. Do I do that a lot? Am I self-critical? Oh, woops. Hello thought! HELLO! HELLO!
As time went on, it became a little less erratic in the strange contradiction of letting my brain rest by just allowing thoughts while also being hyper-aware of them. It was clearly never about delving into my psyche, but allowing what was there just to exist. Here is the thing. The place where your thoughts and your feelings are granted freedom of speech no matter the content, is magic. It is inherently kind and self-accepting to listen to ourselves and allow those corks to pop up while refraining from judgment, even if the thoughts aren’t always positive. That is, when we give ourselves full permission to experience all our emotions and all of our thoughts, anything can seep in.
Allowing my thoughts to exist has had the following benefits; I’ve become more considerate of my own inner voice, and allow myself to feel what I need to feel and acknowledge my knee-jerk reactions, intuitions, thoughts, and judgments about myself and the world around me. I am more grounded and able to listen to filter out the thoughts of others in favor or following what I feel and think. I’m able to notice the signs my body sends me, not just fight/flight, but where I feel my emotions.
For me personally, I find the lack of direction or outcome of mindfulness liberating. However, its most important byproduct may simply be that is allows your to develop a deeper relationship and higher knowing of yourself by dedicating practice to acknowledging and hearing what your body and mind have to say.
We deserve to give ourselves the gift of being deeply heard and understood; mindfulness gives us the capacity to venture down that rabbit hole, which can be pretty damn precious.
Marianna works in mental health and writes. Both are soul foods. Connect with her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MariannaJarossTherapy