When you sit, close your eyes, take a deep breath and begin a meditation, it’s in those moments that all else can melt away. Any roles or responsibilities you identify yourself with, anything that is coming up or has been before, any challenges, perceived lack or ambitions, in those moments it can all just wait. In the exhale of that first breath, I almost imagine any worries or cares being exhaled with it.
In that space, deep rest takes place. Nothing to heal, fix, do, become. In that space you, me, your neighbour, friend, enemy, muse – we are all the same.
Any drama in life that feels stressful, confusing or tight, anything making you anxious, tugging at you and clouding your mind can be paused. Light relief from a constant stream of thought, even if it’s just for a brief moment.
I used to so often feel like I wanted to take a holiday from myself. To take a break from the mind chatter, the lack of sleep, the worry. It was as if I was addicted to being stimulated or distracted because being left alone with my thoughts was actually unbearable but also so exhausting. I would go through my day in automatic pilot; working too much, getting wasted at the weekends, mindless TV flicking, obsessing over boys or sometimes lying in bed staring at the ceiling lost completely in foggy thought for hours.
When I first started meditating it was mentally uncomfortable, it made me hear my thoughts loudly and those thoughts usually told me I was worthless. It was painful, stressful and felt frustrating and I thought it was meditation itself that was at fault for that discomfort. But for some reason I kept coming back to it.
Meditation has genuinely changed my life. Not in a, life is now all rainbows and butterflies, gushy, sickly, disingenuous way nor my external world as such. But my inner world – my experience of life has totally changed.
Someone said to me the other day when talking about how challenging I’m finding my current living situation ‘you shouldn’t feel/respond like that, you meditated!’ As if meditating would somehow make me numb to all life’s challenges. It’s not that it has stopped me feeling, crying, hurting, grasping or returning to old habits or negative thought patterns at times. But it has given me a sense of freedom from those things that I hadn’t realised before, making me more resilient to them. There is an awareness of feeling or reacting, rather than being utterly consumed by it.
The freedom and peace of really understanding that thoughts are just thoughts. They aren’t actually real. Thoughts of a future we can not predict. Thoughts of a past that we can not change or (my old fave) complete fantasies about a different life all together.
Thoughts, perceptions, fantasies and judgements carry with them an energetic charge, that manifest as feelings within us, as if they were real. But really, the thought itself is not!
Feelings follow thought. So if our thoughts are of complication, confusion, lack or stories of the past, we feel sad today. If our thoughts are of worry, trying to predict or control the future, others or our experience somehow, our feelings are of anxiety, panic and unease today. Or perhaps if thoughts are so muddled and continuous it can feel like a foggy, hazy, confusing world to live in. But it’s not the world, it is just our thoughts.
Through meditation and mindfulness I am learning to observe rather than attach to experiences, expectations, thought or a sense of controlling life. Instead experiencing life, my feelings, my thoughts, my reactions and responses with a gentle curiosity. Sometimes they are loud and consuming, sometimes they’re easier to observe.
I led a workshop at Port Eliot festival this weekend and a beautiful lady stayed behind to chat. She told me how she was totally worn out by her busy mind, not sleeping and struggling with being a mum of three and found herself snapping at and taking out her frustration on her eldest – Then beating herself up and hating herself for doing so.
The truth is we all ‘react’, it’s human, and there are so many layers of experience that lead to the way we are wired, the way we react, respond and interpret life – to our thought patterns. But the start, the power to change to feel more at peace within ourselves is in the awareness, to simply notice; to become self aware and mindful of our reactions. It is then in that gap, that awareness, that we have the power to be more loving, more accepting, more tolerant. To cultivate, in that gap, awareness of our thoughts, perceptions and judgements and compassion both for others and ourselves.
Meditation itself isn’t a cure or fix, for me it’s a connection with a deep sense of peace where there is nothing to fix, heal or become – all of us are the same in that space no matter what we have, do or want. A place that I can always return to, within me almost like pressing the ‘reset’ button. And that deep rest facilitates a sense of awareness allowing me to start to be more mindful and accepting in my experience of life.
I see meditation as the vehicle for us to connect with ourselves – to be our own teachers, to become aware, to choose love. It’s not necessarily about what is happening, really, it’s about how we respond to what’s happening that matters. So then, the power is ours!
Meditation has taught me to really feel and use my feeling as an enquiry, it’s teaching me how to soften and let go and allow all that is beyond my control. Suddenly what I would have dismissed years ago as being gushy and disingenuous feels on the deepest level to be my own truth.
If you’re feeling tense, agitated, unsettled, numb, unhappy, exhausted by your thoughts – if you’ve ever felt like you’d like to take a holiday from yourself – I hear you. It is normal to feel a kaleidoscope of feelings at one time or another. But know, however you’re feeling right now it won’t last forever. By simply being aware of how you feel or where your thoughts are at, identifying them and labelling them actually gives them less power – that’s awareness or mindfulness in action. And in that gap, that awareness, that’s the space of true freedom, that’s where with practice you can start to make more peaceful, loving choices in everyday life.
Every single one of us are just learning, about life and ourselves. Start from where you are with any mindfulness or meditation practice. Just be curious, simply notice, with compassion towards yourself and your experience. It is in that awareness, that space, that you can start to move forward with more peace.
Right now you are exactly where you’re meant to be and this moment, as with every moment, it’s a new start.