One hesitates to admit to loony sounding practices which invite ridicule, but… mindfulness meditation really does reach the parts other things don’t.
Sure you can read, philosophise, listen to music, exercise or get blotto to blot out a whirring mind. But when it comes to finding out what’s at the heart of the whirring, you have to stop distracting yourself and start meditating.
Mindfulness meditation is learning to connect your mind and body – but without the help of the Buddha. Simple really, focus on your body and breathing and it reveals a deeper understanding of what’s in you mind.
It generally starts with thinking about your feet. More accurately focusing on breathing, and then stopping your mind racing by working up from the feet, to the legs and upwards, concentrating on each zone of the body in turn.
Hey presto, the mind stops racing. Result! But as I discovered this week that’s just a foundation. A very useful one; but it’s not the sum of what can be done.
Turning towards difficulty has been this week’s task – and this has brought some uncomfortable realisations. Quite literally uncomfortable too, as the challenge is to clear the mind, conjure up a difficult thought – a fear, anxiety or problem – and then really feel it. And keep feeling it even when it hurts too. Ouch!
In various runs at this, I have found, thinking about one situation makes my thighs cramp and my face literally twitch with anxiety. Another makes me clench all my arm and chest muscles in controlled fury. And a third – which I thought I feared, I don’t. I also discovered I’m no great fan either of ridicule or being ridiculed…
So what happens next? Well the answer is not to suppress and bottle all this stuff. Recognising mental events often trigger a set of physical responses – which pass, and aren’t so bad really – breaks the vicious circle.
Just like the dentist (where I was yet again on Monday) one way is clench up and hate every minute. Another is to breathe, relax, close my eyes and enjoy half an hour to myself – as the dentist buzzes, whizzes, picks and saws.
I’m off for more dentistry right now and quite looking forward to the chair. I’m learning that when you stop avoiding discomfort and turn to face it – it hurts much less.