My mind is like a bad neighborhood… I try not to go there alone.
In the Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy classes, we have been focusing on the way feelings manifest in the body. We are learning to use the body’s wisdom to increase our awareness of pleasant feelings — leading to more joy — yes! We are also learning to develop a mindful awareness of the difficult feelings, and this allows us to experience them differently — as if they are held in a wider space — which actually hurts less!
(I’ll admit, this experience is hard to describe in words, but you might be able to experience it yourself using the meditation you can download on our homepage.)
This mindful awareness also allows painful feelings to follow a natural arc of arriving, lasting a while, and then leaving. By paying attention, we notice this flow happens more easily, with less resistance, and they can pass more quickly. It also allows us to notice that they have passed and feel the spaciousness they leave behind.
This all came to me in a new way this morning, as I was listening to a talk, and I heard this great quote by Annie Lamott that I’ve come across before:
It made me laugh, but I also saw the wisdom in it. Years of weekly practice with my friends in RockBlossom Sangha provided me with the opportunity to sit with my oh-so-challenging mind over and over again, held by the anchor of my friends and their breathing and their solidity. I didn’t have to go there alone.
But of course we can’t always be with others.
But, this morning, hearing this quote again, I suddenly thought about it in a new way. I thought, “Yes, I don’t need to go into that bad neighborhood alone, as long I have my body with me.”
It was such a startling thought!
But I realize this insight grew out of our practice in the class. Over and over, we see how bodily awareness grounds us in the here and now. Whether this moment is a bit challenging or REALLY DIFFICULT, it only becomes worse when the mind starts to take off! And bodily awareness can bring us back to the relatively better experience of the actual present moment, which is much easier than the dark places our mind takes us.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness classes, please contact me. I continue to be blown away by how beautiful it is to watch people get this. Here’ s what one participant wrote just this past week:
“This class has helped me enjoy the enjoyable bits of life more, and cope with the less enjoyable bits. I feel like I have found a method to prevent myself from spiraling down into panicky and negative thougts. Instead, I am more present in my life, and in the realization that I have a really nice life! This has been incredibly valuable to me, more so than anything else I can think of that I could do.”
A surprising bonus of mindfulness is that it can also bring us back to awareness of the startling joy that is possible here and now! I do not diminish just how hard your life is. I really get it. There have been days I too have my head on the table and don’t know what to do. But I really want to offer that skillful responses can make it much much easier and awaken us to the possibility of happiness in this moment. Join us sometime!
Smiling mindfully (and endorphin inducingly!)