The peace that passes all understanding
Has your therapist or acupuncturist ever encouraged you to develop a mindfulness practice? Do you sit in front of YouTube tutorials and wonder if you’re doing it right? Do you feel frustrated because you’re afraid that you’ve done it wrong?
You’re not alone.
Christopher Dines talks us through mindfulness. There is no right or wrong way to build and sustain a conscious commitment to mindfulness. It’s as essential to self-care as eating well, sleeping, and exercising.
Learning how to apply mindfulness can feel like a daunting prospect, especially if a newcomer has been exposed to all sorts of misconceptions and misleading associations regarding meditation. The fact is mindfulness is a very simple way of being. It is not a “new age” phenomenon - mindfulness has been practiced for over two thousand years. A mindfulness-based practice has been tested and validated by brilliant scientists worldwide.
The original meaning of mindfulness is self-awareness. We can become aware of our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and bodily sensations and as a result, observe our reality with greater clarity. We can develop an awareness of when we are triggered and subsequently take immediate action to breathe deeply and respond accordingly. We can learn to investigate the depths of our subconscious minds and with time and persistence, gradually rewire our brains.
For many of those who suffer with severe anxiety, depression and stress and hope that mindfulness will bring some emotional comfort, it is quite common to experience feelings of despondency as practising meditation can be difficult in the early days. Keep in mind that this is natural and that the struggle is part of the process.
Very few, if any, will access immediate tranquillity when first attempting to practice mindfulness. If your intention is to access inner peace, this is certainly possible, however you cannot “force” your way to peace. Remember that mindfulness is being aware of what is. Mindfulness is not a visualisation meditation (although I fully subscribe to visualisation when it is suitable to do so). If when you meditate you feel slightly restless, this does not mean you have “failed”. On the contrary, it means that you have been present enough to notice that your mind is restless. You have expanded your self-awareness.
This is why in my new book, “Drug Addiction Recovery: The Mindful Way” (17th Jan 2019, Sheldon Press), I wrote “There are many different ways to be mindful in everyday life. We can be mindful of the feelings in our bodies while we eat or walk. We can train ourselves to listen deeply to another person’s words and feelings. Practices such as deep breathing, conscious breathing, alternate breathing, singing and dancing, laughing, and chanting mantras can anchor us in the present moment. Sometimes we may feel serene and joyful after sitting quietly and meditating, but most of the time mindfulness produces greater clarity in one’s though patterns and emotions.”
By and large, the more you commit yourself to observing your thoughts and feelings, the more likely you will be to access inner peace and serenity. You will find yourself responding differently to challenging people and circumstance. This is my personal experience and the experience of millions of people throughout the ages who have dedicated themselves to a daily mindfulness practice. Thus the ancient saying, “The peace that passes all understanding” becomes a way of life.
You may find yourself in a blissful state of consciousness or you may notice that you feel emotionally static or that you are grieving a loss. One day you may feel optimistic during morning meditation and the following day you may be gripped with fear and anxiety. Regardless of the emotion felt, it is the awareness of the feeling which we can regard as mindfulness fully realised.
The key thing to remember is to come back to the breath. This is your anchor to presence. This is why the Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
In a world that can feel like it demands perfection, try to go easy on yourself. Gentleness directed inwards is a wonderful way to live.