|The mind automatically seeks to 'solve' problems.|
Last Monday I asked our mindfulness group to try keeping a journal linked to their practice over the coming week. Like a good leader I've been doing it too. I've used mixed methods sometimes audio recording my reflections on my phone and other times writing them down.
What difference has this made? Well, I am as a result, more aware of when I am just being mindful as distinct from trying to be mindful. I have learnt, in a way that goes beyond just reading the words in a book or on a website, that being mindful is not something that involves striving. Instead it requires you to accept, to notice and let go or notice and accept. Acceptance gained in this way does not lead to passivity but releases the capacity, both mental and emotional, to attend to an issue or a problem. Whereas ‘sweating it’ depletes energy. I will give you one simple example from my week.
I got upset last Friday because I had to reshuffle a client who had not completed the paperwork necessary before a first coaching appointment. I offered the postponement in order to avoid a wasted hour talking to someone who I knew would not be in the right head and heart space. I quite bluntly communicated my concerns to him about whether he was ready for coaching and indicated that this was a conversation that needed to be had before going forward. This email was met with silence…
So I began ‘to sweat it’- the voice in my head started up, ‘have I upset him, what if he never wants to speak to me again, was I too blunt, I am always too blunt, that is my problem! No wonder I have no friends’ etc. etc. The gremlin in my head was having a field day.
|Our stresses are written in the body.|
Later that same day I had my yoga class. Still wound up and unsuccessfully trying to be mindful i.e. to let the thoughts go by as if they were drifting clouds, to notice where my thoughts were going and then gently direct them back to my breath, all the things I had been teach myself mindfully to do over the last five weeks– I was trying all of this but nothing worked. The harder I tried the less I could focus on the movements required in the class. I was wobbling all over the place. You should have seen my half moon balance! Things only began to settle down when I finally said to my teacher, who was helpfully reminding me about ‘letting it all go’, “I am upset, and I can’t let it go.” So I stopped fighting it and my body became my own again!
After the session I recorded the following thoughts:
“Being mindful is not always about letting go of what is occupying the mind and disturbing its peace. Turning toward a difficulty, putting it into perspective; accepting the bad feeling, creates freedom. It immediately released me from trying to suppress my anxiety. I accepted it.”
This made it possible to do something to resolve my feelings. I decided to write my client an email acknowledging the difficulty. I was then able to let it go. I got on with the rest of my day without the turbulence.
My clients broke the silence later that evening. My email had acknowledged that my earlier message may have seemed harsh and expressed the hope that he had not taken them that way. My message was not an apology but it was an acknowledgement of the difficulty. He wrote back to say, no he’d not taken my words harshly, that I was right to challenge him. He asked me to forgive him for not planning his week well enough to be ready for our session, more significantly he confirmed his commitment to wanting to be coached and asked me not to give up on him.
Mark Williams writes in his book ‘Mindfulness- Finding Peace in a Frantic World,
“Acceptance comes in two steps. The first involves gently noticing the temptation to drive away or suppress any unsettling thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations. The second step involves actively meeting them ‘at the door laughing, and greeting them honourably’."
I will be doing an ‘Exploring Difficulty Meditation’ with my group tonight.