Often until something demands that we pay a little more attention to our well-being we are too wrapped up in our life to consider introducing mindfulness and meditation. If we can introduce it when nothing is particularly troubling us then we give ourselves a real head start because our minds are not as hectic as they could be.
Many people come to try mindfulness and meditation because they are experiencing a challenge in their life or a period of difficulty. This certainly was the case for me. I began meditating to improve my health and reduce stress. I do it to stay well and avoid MS relapse. My motivation gives me a great commitment to my daily practice which is great. So from where ever you start there are positives.
A common misconception is that mindfulness means blocking out thoughts, feelings and emotions. It doesn’t. It means noticing thoughts, feelings and emotions more often and observing them. It means really being in touch with ourselves and how we are feeling. If we try and resist thoughts and emotions they won’t simply go away. We can perhaps hide them for a while but in the end they will surface. They almost fight back all the stronger because you are trying to rid yourself of them. This can be really frustrating, stressful and difficult to cope with.
We all know that feeling when something is bothering us, try as you might you just cannot stop that thought or feeling returning. Rather than trying to change our thoughts mindfulness teaches us to change how we react to our thoughts. A blue sky analogy is often used to describe this. As you will have seen if you have travelled on an airplane, the blue sky is always there. Often from where we are looking it is covered with clouds. There may be complete cloud cover or the odd cloud or anything in between. The clouds are like our thoughts. They can be dark and heavy, soft and white, maybe grey and dull. Whatever the clouds are like they all pass, none of them are permanent. They change shape, colour and they move across the sky until we can no longer see them. Every now and then we get a glimpse of blue sky, a bit of peace of mind. So rather than seeking to change our thoughts we learn to watch them and note them and then let them pass.
Life can throw all sorts at us. If you are going through a rough patch then you might imagine that your sky is constantly covered in dark, heavy clouds. If you can start to see that the clouds are always changing and moving across the sky then this can really help and make life seem a little lighter. A glimpse of blue sky feels like magic! Remember back to last week, what were your worries then? Have they changed now? Some of the small ones you perhaps can’t even remember any more. Getting this sort of perspective on things and realising that our problems are not fixed in their current state can be a real relief, especially if times are tough.
If difficult emotions are part of your life at the moment then recognising them is so important. If we seek to block our emotions they eventually make themselves known. Before I got into mindfulness and meditation I would hide my emotions so well that I wasn’t even aware of them, I convinced myself that nothing bothered me or stressed me out. Sure enough every now and then a small thing could trigger a short period of real upset, a feeling of being stressed. If we can recognise our emotions and let them through rather than resisting them then we can get on much more of an even keel. We learn to take a break when we need one and to look after ourselves rather than getting to the stage where it all gets on top of us.
All of us have different ways of dealing with our difficulties. Friends and family are a real support for me. Some people find that keeping a diary can help empty their minds. Seeing a counsellor can really work if you have difficulties going on. All of these options allow us to vent our problems and feel the emotions that arise. Again rather than pushing the thoughts away we are noticing them for the period of time we devote to them and then we allow them to move on. This can be a great way to resolve issues and can also help to clear your head. Mindfulness works really well alongside these sorts of coping mechanisms. It can be an amazing tool to get you back on track and enjoying daily life rather than worrying your way through it. Sometimes the big picture can seem daunting but if you can begin by focusing on the things that are actually going on for you in that moment then everything seems so much better and life becomes enjoyable again.