When someone expresses interest in beginning a mindfulness practice in earnest there are usually 3 things that I want them to understand. First, mindfulness is a practice and will involve practicing regularly. Second, it involves turning toward the uncomfortable, not away from it, and third, the consistent practice of it will change your life beyond words.
I went to a yoga class yesterday at a new studio. Throughout the class, the teacher’s constant talk seemed to be an attempt to get us to catch some sort of mystical wave. We were encouraged to “soothe the amygdala” and “travel across the corpus callosum.” While I appreciated her blissful orientation to life I don’t think her approach was the best way to help someone learn yoga because her words were an invitation to leave the body and breath and focus instead on a soothing fantasy.
Similarly I often meet people who think that to begin mindfulness practice they must first adopt some sort of mystical orientation to their life and everything else will flow from there with little or no effort. The mystical orientation may or may not come later but the effort definitely comes first. In my experience, the path to the extraordinary always goes through the ordinary. Many of us in our understandable desire to be free of mental or physical pain try to put the cart before the horse, as it were. We want to leap clear of the uncomfortable stuff: the fear, the boredom, the monotony, the overwhelm, and simply relocate ourselves in a wonderful new mind-set. One day you may look back and say you have achieved this, but if so it will be because you started at the beginning, you started where you were, on the ground floor where the dirt is. One accepts and cherishes the journey.
Mindfulness is not magic, it is a human capacity. It can be developed by anyone with proper training and practice. If you find the notion of practice intimidating, fear not. Starting small and keeping it simple is a sure way to find your footing and ensure that you will not be dissuaded by difficulty. In turning toward your pain or unease with compassion you will automatically summon the courage to face it and begin a process of integration and dissolution. Embracing and understanding our inherent vulnerability is usually a part of this process and paradoxically enables us to accept the support and encouragement of others which we come to find in abundant supply. No matter who you are or how much or little burden you carry, mindfulness practice reveals an ordinary human capacity to come alive and thrive. I hope you will consider embarking on this journey to See The Mind.