My main understanding of mindfulness has definitely grown. In the beginning, I thought it was all about the meditation and trying to quiet my mind. I was getting frustrated because, well, that was nearly impossible and my restlessness turned out to be a nice defense mechanism. Then I thought it was about dismissing feelings along with thoughts because that is the only way you could accomplish this mindfulness stuff, right? No, it is not the way. The way, to me, is acknowledging what is there without judgment and with curiosity, exploration, courage, and dare I say… excitement.
It is allowing one to be quiet and listen to the wisdom that is within and the wisdom that is in everyone and everything. We are all connected – people, animals, and nature. Mindfulness is a way to connect to the bigger picture. It is also a way to take responsibility for one’s actions, and oneself and for the role he or she has in the world.
Mindfulness also means having the ability to physically and physiologically change one’s health and well-being. It is amazing how powerful the mind is and how open to change it is as well. Albeit it does take some practice. It reminds one of getting better at a sport. The more one practices, the easier the skill becomes. The challenge is letting it be what it is, just noticing and not forcing or feeling the pressure to do something.
The other aspect is anyone can do it. It is not tied to a religion or dogma. It does not take a lot of time to get a lot out of a sitting. There are no rules to follow except to honor one’s existence, breathe and be aware with all senses, and acknowledge the present moment and if there are thoughts let them float away. Simple really; however, simple is often the most difficult.
In graduate school I took a Mindfulness class. Academically, this was one of the most important classes I could have taken. I learned how mindfulness literally affects the brain for the better. This class opened a new world for me, a world I am very excited to learn more about. It is a world to open to my clients.
Having the opportunity to study Buddhist Psychology on my own was a gift. I have been drawn to Buddhism for quite some time. I could not figure out how to apply it to the therapy room without offending those who are religious and could not figure out how to explain Buddhism to those who did not know. This class gave me the opportunity to explore and realize that Buddhism is a way to live and to explain the challenges of existing.
I think the best way to explain my insights is take some of the entries from my journal. The first time I wrote, my realization was that I was holding on. “I felt as if I was holding on. To what? Well, to what feels safe, less powerful. The letting go power is enormous. Who will I be after I let go and immerse myself? Immerse myself in the nothingness? What will I learn? Do I want to learn it? If it wasn’t for me to learn, why would it be there for me to explore?”
I often have these conversations with myself – repeatedly. It is like resisting my own power, denying a large part of myself. The conversation continues with, “Just see what happens, feel what happens. Observe what happens with no judgment, no rationalization, no figuring or guessing. Let the feeling pass through you, experiencing it full. Allow yourself to know, to feel, to see – when alone and with others.” I realized I have the gift of compassion and the ability to “feel” a person, his or her energy.
It is important to embrace who I am and what I have to offer and listen with my heart as well as my ears. “Love yourself where you are now. Embrace change, unknown, new journeys and paths, and what you feel. Then you can be present for yourself and others.” All that written, let the struggle begin…
I found that restlessness is my best defensive move. I have been told I am extremely resistant, although I am better now. One of my insights came with the banging of the Zen walking sticks. “I wasn’t going to let those walking sticks get me this time – my guard was up for that. I was aware they were coming. No one and nothing was going to scare me like before. I kept myself distracted so I couldn’t go anywhere or be scared yet I was restless.” This restlessness was about doing, fixing and avoiding… wishing I was somewhere else but not sure where. Where else does this happen in my life? Everywhere.
“Let go or be dragged” is a quote I found in this process. Being dragged is exhausting but I smile along the way. It is here I received insight on my smile. “The smile is just be being caught. The smile is me hiding. The smile is sadness, shame, and guilt. The smile is nerves, anxiety, not knowing what else to do. The smile is also genuine and me asking for help. The smile is welcoming and joy and most importantly… gratitude.”
The last key insight I received is that I have new information that I must share, give, and keep learning more. There is much joy in knowing this… to bask in the light; to open the small space in my heart a little more so more than just I can fit. To welcome, receive, and feel support from others is next – to be open to the flow, the flow of love and support. To feel I am not alone and to embrace it.
Being open to learn something in most every moment has been another gift I have received from this class. It has given me the courage to be honest with myself more so than I ever have. It has also had me realize that there is beauty in the suffering; a learning and a knowing that can develop if I just acknowledge what is. Once it is acknowledged, I can accept it and then agree that it is there and make decisions around it. My awareness is the flame that starts the bonfire of questions for personal growth. What is the most healthy and beneficial for all involved? What am I not willing to look at? What do I need? Now that I have this information, where can it take me? What shall I do with it? It is exciting because through all of this I know I will get to know myself increasingly. I am truly limitless in what I would like to discover and explore and the more I do that, the more I can help to heal my clients.