If you are new to mindfulness, congratulations on finding one of the most powerful practices for a better life! I know this because I began mindfulness study and practice over 20 years ago and have worked with 100s of clients to change their lives through mindfulness practices, and all of us feel it’s the most important change. We agree that mindfulness practices have helped us face life’s challenges.
Mindfulness practice does not change circumstances (although it may), nor does it create a life with no challenges. For sure, life will continue to be challenging because, well, that’s just the nature of life. The difference with mindfulness is that one gains greater capacity to deal with the challenges in healthy ways, ways that don’t create as much chaos or suffering as less mindful ways.
When I started my mindfulness & meditation practices, I wasn’t particularly struggling with a big life challenge, but there seemed to be many smaller ones. Once I had practiced meditation and mindfulness for a few months, I began to see that my mind continually creates “issues”, perceived problems, to which I responded with anxiety or anger or depression, or all three. I saw how I was trying so hard to get life to conform to my wishes. I was constantly striving and trying to fix myself and others so that we would all be happy (and live happily ever after). I probably don’t need to point out the irony in this, that my striving was causing at least part of the unhappiness I was trying to fix! When I saw this, I also saw how my practices would shift my ways and mindfulness would be a practice I do for the rest of my life.
Did it make life less painful? At first it didn’t. In fact, it was sometimes excruciatingly painful to see my irrational thinking, judgments, stories and reactivity that had been running the show without my awareness. Fortunately, I was enrolled in a study of psychology at the time, so I didn’t panic and run away from this disturbing awareness of my crazy thinking. Instead, I became very curious and determined to continue practicing, because the “gurus” assure us that this is the way to peace.
And indeed it is, but it is a gradual process. After the first shocking awareness of the constant litany in my mind, there was a period of just watching it without judgment, trying to be very clear about what was happening in the thought world as often as possible. Then an interesting thing happened. I began to experience periods of ‘no thought’, which I could only notice in instances because the minute I noticed them, thoughts such as, “Wow! Look at that. I’m not thinking” would pop up, and my mind was off and running with a discourse evaluating my experience of ‘no thought’. But noticing these times of no thought was encouraging. I had glimpses of something more real, and felt there is more to me than only that constant redundant and agitating mental commentary.
Another thing I noticed was that occasionally a different kind of “knowing” would break through. It was not information that came in the form of thoughts about something. It was more like a heartfelt awareness that was in the background, an intuitive kind of wisdom. Of course I had had this experience before, but now it was happening much more frequently. It seemed like the energy waves of wisdom could finally be seen as the smoke screen of thought began to part occasionally. And this was just the beginning of my more mindful journey….
If you would like to live more mindfully, check out Mindful Life Coaching