From Mindless to Mindful - or at least slightly less mindless...
This weekend just past, I was at a wonderful course run at The Clifton Practice (where I trained as a hypnotherapist). The course was on Mindfulness and Acceptance Based Strategies - quite the mouthful I know! And do you know what, I was enlightened! The whole weekend seemed to be full of 'Eureka' moments for me. So many principles of mindfulness really resonated with me and my life at the moment. Naturally, I came away with this invigorated attitude, 'Right, that's it, I am practicing mindfulness through meditation every day and it's going to be great!'
I rushed home on Sunday evening, excited to tell my partner and my family about how wonderful being mindful will be. We discussed my idea of how to fit it into my routine, and I then went to bed, ready for the new dawn of my enlightened, meditative, mindful self. This morning, I woke up slightly earlier than needed, ate my breakfast and then checked the time. I had planned to meditate for at least 15 minutes after breakfast - because who are we kidding, there is no way i could sit still and concentrate on an empty stomach! I instantly found myself calculating how long I had until I needed to leave, and whether I could fit the meditation in. There I was, day 1 and already finding excuses.
Even though I'd managed to mindlessly procrastinate and waste time this morning, I didn't give up. I sat myself down, set a 5 minute timer, and away I went.
Our wonderful teacher for the weekend made sure to remind us to tell ourselves, and our clients, that meditation and mindfulness isn't something that comes naturally; that you will be, without fail, rubbish at it! You will forget, you will make excuses and weasel out of it. But whatever you do, do not beat yourself up about it. Yes, I was mindless in my Facebook scrolling and didn't dedicate as much time as I'd wanted to my new practice, but in the simple act of recognising this, I was already being mindful.
So, settling myself down, I closed my eyes and began to draw my focus to my breath, paying attention to every element of the experience; the sound of the seagulls cawing outside, the wooden chair hard against my back. It took all of 20 seconds for my mind to drift. Where did it drift to? Anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes it was literal and tangible, other times it was dreamlike and metaphoric. Each time my mind wandered, I made myself aware of it wandering, and brought it back to my breathing. For 5 minutes I did this over and over again.
You know what? I was rubbish at 'meditating', at clearing my mind and being completely present in the moment. But as with any new skill, you need practice - lots and lots of practice! I accepted that I wasn't great at this, but congratulated myself for at least trying.
Acceptance is a huge part of the practice of mindfulness. When you can look at a situation, good or bad, and appreciate each aspect of the experience and accept it for what it is, then you are well on your way to being truly mindful. This can be the hardest aspect to conquer, but almost certainly the most rewarding and liberating one. When you can accept your failings, accept the aspects of your life you have no control over, then you can be free of all expectations and anxieties.
Me accepting that I am pretty rubbish at meditation (for now!) and that I have a long way to go, is the first step on my journey towards mindfulness. And those 5 minutes of poor, busy minded meditation did more good that I realised in setting my mind up for a busy and productive day. Tomorrow, I will be rubbish at it again, and I am looking forward to it!