Why Mindfulness Gave Me a Friend
Mindfulness has become so popular in recent years. There are many benefits and research shows that mindfulness can reduce stress and improve performance, memory and makes you more resilient. However, it opens you to something beyond this. When mindfulness crept into my life I discovered a new friend inside me.
Mindfulness and Sitting with Your Thoughts
I had done a bit of meditation in yoga classes, but never enjoyed shavasana. I was too pumped! Those first months after my head injury required a great deal of sitting in my grey chair looking out of my kitchen window onto Archway rooftops. Unable to do much other than sitting with my pain, I began to notice my thoughts as something happening in my head.
There were many thoughts. As I became aware of the thoughts, I noticed that they made my head hurt more. I began to just say 'shhh' to myself to soothe my head. This helped to quieten the thoughts.
Insomnia and lack of sleep drove me crazy. I was distressed at night with only short 90 minute bursts of sleep if I was lucky. Audiobooks, podcasts and TED Talks were always my 'go to' listening, but now these were too demanding. I started to listen to visualisation meditations at night when I could not sleep. These journeys took me to more peaceful, serene places that I could start to relax.
Between sitting 'shhh' and visualisations, my mind began to know how to quiet. It was learning to recognise thoughts and emotions for their energetic demands on my body. The pain motivated me to release the emotions and focus on the quiet calm space around my thoughts and feelings. This felt better if I could welcome it in and let the other stuff soften into the background.
We can't all just 'listen to your thoughts'. We can't all just 'watch your breath', sometimes we need more tools to enter the inner world.
Steps to Mindfulness:
- Watch nature and observe it change like a beautiful and intriguing picture. There is no story or judgment.
- Listen to a visualisation to guide your mind away from your thoughts and into a deeper, calmer place.
- Say a soothing sound to yourself or hum with a calming melody to ease yourself with vibrations of your own sound (it's like a cat purr).
- Count the breath in and out, preferably a longer exhale to promote the parasympathetic nervous system. E.g. 4:6 / inhale : exhale.
Meeting You as Your Friend
After several months of this, a shift occurred. The space between my thoughts and reactions had been created. The thoughts became clearer in my mind - I could hear the harsh words I said to myself.
I would never let another person say such words about themselves. Why did I do it to myself?
If I were a friend to myself I would forgive myself for these thoughts and the past way I treated myself. I would be compassionate. At this time, I met my new friend - ME.
Every time the critic reappeared I thanked her for her support in my life, her efforts and concerns for me. I told her that she could relax. I would ask myself what I would say to my best friend in my situation, and then I went to live with my best friend - literally!
Steps to Being Your Friend:
- In a situation that challenges you, can you take 3 rounds of breath and look at it from another person's perspective?
- What would your best friend or loved one say to you?
- What words would they say that would make you feel better? What words would make you feel more at ease in your body about this?
- Are there words that feel like the hug you need in this moment?
Compassion Based Mindfulness
Mindfulness developed a specific approach 'Compassion Based Mindfulness' that is a heart led approach. We cannot find the compassion without the space that mindfulness creates, but we must enter the heart-space to use the lens of compassion.
If you really cannot face mindfulness, then perhaps you can try compassion as your lead. To lead your choices and actions from the heart-space might make the space to become more mindful?
Leading from the Heart-Space:
- When in a situation that you need to act, who propels you to act? Your inner critic or heart?
- When you do something 'stupid' what do you say to yourself?
- When there is a lesson to be learnt, is there space for a 'well done'?
- Do you recognise how far you have come? Can you stop & see your progress?
- Is there space to forgive yourself when you make a mistake or misjudge yourself or others?
What We See
When you support others in their healing journey, you notice similar issues of the human condition arising. A theme is the judgmental inner critic that we often carry within us. It is accepted as the modern Western culture values rational and logical judgments to make our decisions. It can be hard to let go of this perspective in life when it seems so 'accepted', yet it is not from the heart. It disconnects us from one another and living a fulfilled life.
We would love to support you in discovering your new best friend. Through our At Home programs we can work with you offering a variety of techniques, so that you can welcome in a new love in and of your life!