Mindfulness Week 6: Trapped in the Past or Living in the Present?

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Apologies for posting this post late, I had a particularly tough Sunday so I didn't feel up to writing. I won't say much about it, but I'm going to be coming up with a post in the near future just listing my opinions in terms of mental well-being and relationships and this will feed into it. What I'll say right now is that Mindfulness in the face of as difficult a situation as a relationship ending is invaluable. The ability to face your difficult emotions head on in one meditation, to take a step back and observe your thought pattern and calm the storm of spiralling bad thoughts in another, and the ability to learn more about yourself as a person as a whole.

Understanding your flaws and your emotions is key to getting through the low moments, because there are so many times in my life where I feel like I'm emotionally exhausted, but I cannot place the root of that feeling and that causes me to spiral. You can nip that in the bud when you take the time to listen to the pattern of your thoughts and learn just what is ailing you. I'm hoping this training will help me speed up my emotional recovery.

When you're adrift in a dark sea of feelings and possibilities, unable to figure out where to sail for safety, Mindfulness, therapies, counselling, medication, or just talking to someone about how you're feeling can be your lighthouse.

 We now return to your scheduled hippie-dippy-but-actually-seriously-valuable meditation broadcast!

Meditations

 The past week was very slow moving, and I think that was partly down to me practising more mindful behaviour like taking walks and taking the time to think. It has been attempting to rush past me as I look forward to new things, but I'm finding myself taking more breathing spaces, helping time to slow down around me. I'm saying “yes” to more things too though, planning future events and creating a trail of fun for me to follow through the year. I'm living in the moment while also looking forward to things, I suppose. It's nice. It relates to this week's meditation and purpose actually. It's all about “befriending” oneself, forgiving ourselves for past mistakes and learning to live for right now, loving who you are right now.

 We all have moments where we're just doing our own thing and then suddenly a memory of a mistake we've made or something that has gone wrong for us flashes into our minds out of nowhere. We think and think and think about it, replaying it in our minds and making us feel worse. It begins to reinforce negative opinions of ourselves, and those things become ingrained in us:

  • I'm worthless 
  • I'm a failure 
  • I'll never find love 
  • I'll never find happiness 
  • I'm falling apart 
  • Everyone is surpassing me 
  • Etc... 
Our difficulty in forgiving ourselves for bad events, big or small, is much greater than our ability to remember the good days and jobs well done. The new meditation for this week is named the Befriending meditation and is meant to aid in that search for the ability to stop dwelling in the past. It introduces an affirmation promoting emotional well-being and encourages you to extend the sentiment to yourself, a loved one, a stranger, someone you find difficult, and then to all beings.

May I be free from suffering
May I be as happy and healthy as it is possible for me to be
May I have ease of being

I found it surprisingly cathartic, the idea of sending love out in the world. It releases pressure in your body somehow, considering others and what they may be going through before wishing them peace and happiness. Even the people I find particularly difficult. I would make mental note of people I saw throughout the week, like an older man I saw sat at a bus stop with his head buried in his hands, and make a point to wish them happiness. I really enjoyed this week, and frankly a message of loving oneself, forgiveness, and not dwelling on mistakes could not have come at a better time for me.

The interesting thing was that the book advised you use the 'Mindfulness of Body and Breath' meditation from week one as a precursor to this new meditation. I hadn't done it in so long that I'd forgotten how long it was or what it entailed, and I will say I found it difficult to focus! I was expecting that, after the week I spent practising that meditation, it would be easy to slip back into it. Because of all the time I had spent away from the meditation, however, it was almost as difficult as my first time doing it. That was oddly comforting though, it reinforced my belief that I'm not just “bad” at meditation, or that it doesn't work for me. It requires practice, like all things.

Habit Releaser 

My habit released for this week was about rediscovering a hobby or thing that you enjoy but have been neglecting of late. I chose music, singing specifically, and so I paid a visit to Camden's Roundhouse.
I spent a couple of hours in a little practice room singing, really singing, and writing songs. Just for fun, because I find the process fun. I enjoy the way my brain fires, the way melodies suggest themselves to me and words bubble up out of the rhythm. I really warmed up and practised and was serious about perfecting the sounds I was making rather than just singing because a song won't get out of my head. I really missed the whole creative process, the buzz of it, and although I've felt somewhat blocked lately I think it really is a case of writing down whatever comes to my head and not worrying about things being amazing from the get go. The more I make the effort to write the more likely I'll get ideas, I suppose.

You may wonder why I needed to go to a practice room to do what I could do at home, and the reason is simple: having a dedicated space to work on something puts you in the frame of mind to do it. As soon as the door was closed, I felt ready to go. It is the same for mindfulness: having a place you can go to specifically for meditation can enhance your ability to focus beyond what you may imagine. I even tried meditation in the practice room and found it really beneficial. I was able to focus in such a quiet, private, clear space.

Worrying about past failures or issues can negate our ability to progress and feel worthwhile on a daily basis, as this week's chapter explains. In a similar way, focusing on how easy it may have seemed to write a few years ago, wondering why it doesn't feel the same or comparing my ideas now to my ideas of the past limits my ability to write and sing, making it difficult to progress or enjoy it. What is most important is the here and now, and finding peace in that here and now.

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