Learning to be mindful is nothing like learning to ride a bike. We don’t learn it and are done. We learn core concepts over and over again. We practice the skills we learn over and over again.
I have many ‘mindful journals’ where I jot down my teachers’ wise words and where I reflect on my learning process. I like to go back and read through these journals and highlight bits. My daughter teases me because often most of the page is high-lighted. Well, I think I have mentioned that I am a geek when it comes to learning!
Here is a note I wrote in one of my mindful journals some years ago….
December 12, 2018
THIS IS IT (yes, it’s covered in yellow high-lights!)
Meditation and mindfulness = just sink into what is actually happening now.
If we find pleasure, sink into it! Savour it! We heighten the pleasure because we are there for it; we are not in a fog or grasping for the pleasure to last.
If we find physical or emotional pain – sink in! So often we’ve been fighting it. That’s exhausting. While it may be necessary at times, it is not helpful in the long run. The fighting makes our pain worse because it just adds tension to what is already hard on its own. Letting go of the fight against our pain feels less awful than adding the fight on top of it…..
I will add that a core component of the Mindful Concussion approach is to titrate the hard stuff. So, while this note from some years ago suggests that we ‘sink in’ to our emotional and physical pain, that suggestion comes with the usual Mindful Concussion caveat: we only lean in (to the hard stuff) when we are in our Window of Tolerance ie feeling relatively regulated and resilient and ready. We lean in and titrate out when it feels too much.
In this way bit by bit we expand our capacity to be with the hard stuff. In the end it is so important that we do learn, as Pema Chodron says ‘to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” But by introducing ourselves to our physical and emotional pain in this gentle, titrated way where we control the knob, we feel empowered, in choice, in agency.
Wanna give it a try? Yeah, right now! If it feels right, take a look around. Is there some pleasure you can sink in and savour right now? Even something simple – like the softness of shirt on skin, or the sound of the wind in the trees, or the purple of a flower…You may have noticed my deep love of the colour purple; even when it all feels so hard, I can (usually!) rest in the pleasure of purple.
Is there a physical or emotional pain you are trying not to feel right now? Can you let go, even a wee bit, of the fight against it? Can you unclench the muscles and mind and rest in the feeling itself rather than the fear of it, the worries about it? If it gets too intense, back off, and sink in and savour some simple sweetness.
All day long we have opportunities to practice savouring the sweet and to practice not sweating the sour. It’s not easy, but it gets easier with practice.