Find your way
This week, the focus has been on finding out what works for me and what might not. Even though practicing mindfulness has become a part of my daily life, I don’t want to force myself to do something that might feel totally wrong. That’s why it is very important to find out what works for you. For example, in case you notice that closing your eyes during meditation just does not feel right for you, you can for sure keep your eyes open. Or in case you feel like you just cannot stay still – like I did during the first week – feel free to change the position. In case you are forcing yourself and feeling extremely uncomfortable only because you “should” practice for 30minutes a day, do not feel guilty shortening your practice to 10 or 15 minutes a day.
The point of mindfulness is to be aware and also compassionate towards yourself. If you feel like you need to do something differently than “recommended”, you are very welcome to do so. This is a learning for me as well, because I have the tendency to go all or nothing and do things perfectly, where just an “average” performance usually isn’t enough for me. But this is not about the performance at all. This is just about being. This leads to the learnings of this week, which I find extremely interesting and comforting. I try to remind myself of these two points to myself everyday, and I hope you will too!
Learning 1: The purpose of meditation
Before going into the purpose of meditation, let’s first cover the definition of mindfulness. I guess you might have an opinion or impression of what it is. Mindfulness is a state of being conscious and aware of the present moment, acknowledging and accepting body sensations, feelings and thoughts. That leads to the purpose of mindfulness and practicing meditation.
Right until I started this MBSR course, I have always thought that there would be some kind of a state of mind or a specific goal (i.e. being really relaxed or in an ultimate peace) that needs to be reached once meditating. I’ve always thought meditation is something very much out of the reach for “normal”, stressed, busy or rational people, and I thought I would not be the kind of person who would start doing it or be good at it.
Now I can say that I was totally wrong. First of all, what I have learnt is that there is no goal. There is nowhere you need to go, nothing you need to experience, think or feel while meditating. As the definition tells: “a state of being conscious and aware of the present moment”, it really is exactly that and nothing more. It is being aware of this moment while observing and accepting all as it is. Not trying to change anything or to impact on anything. And this is something that we all should understand once starting to practice mindfulness. And something I remind myself every day before starting my daily practices.
Learning 2: There is no right or wrong
The second learning of this week is linked to the first one, but going a bit deeper into the meaning of mindfulness. People tend to analyze and think, are they doing something correctly or not especially once learning a new thing. In mindfulness, this needs to be forgotten. Yes, for sure there is a purpose in meditation, but it does not mean that you could fail once meditating. “Am I now aware?” “Am I doing this right?” “Should I feel something now?” are questions you might ask yourself. But those questions can be left out from the very beginning.
As mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, how can you fail in that? Whatever that moment is to you, whether you are tired, exhausted, sad, angry, happy or excited, these are all emotions that you can gently observe in yourself in the present moment. There is no right or wrong way to feel or be in the moment, it is enough that you are curious of whatever you feel or sense in the moment. And if your mind wonders thousand times to other things during the practice, you can always bring the attention back to the present.
Challenge: Sensing instead of thinking
I will again share one of the challenges I run into this week. This is linked to the body scan exercise. Shortly, in body scan practice, the purpose is to go through sensing all body parts one by one in awareness. Here, the purpose is to directly sense the sensations in the body parts without actually thinking of them. This is something I struggle a bit with, as I tend to start thinking of that body part instead of directly sensing it. Also, switching the focus from one body part to another without thinking it, is a bit challenging to me, therefore adding the sitting exercise to this week’s practices really helped me. In sitting practice you only focus on one thing; whether it is your breath, a single body part or an outer target (for example a plant). I have found sitting practices very suitable for me!
How about you? In case you have practiced mindfulness, what is your way? What do you prefer? What have you learnt? I would love to hear your experiences in the comments below! 🙂
x Mari Susanna