Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Art of Mindfulness

The Art of Mindfulness ©

The Origin of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is used in various disciplines: for health and wellness such as in psychotherapy to reduce stress and anxiety and to create a sense of awareness of somatic or body sensations and in medicine to reduce chronic and acute pain, for instance. However, mindfulness has been around for centuries, and it goes way back to the teachings of the Buddha.  Buddhist meditation, as it is actually called, is preserved and practiced in various countries, and, at the most basic explanation, the aim is to alleviate suffering and to attain a state of transcendent peace. Today, in the West, Buddhist meditation has morphed into a word many of us recognize as mindfulness that many incorporate into our daily activities to create awareness of our thoughts, body sensations, and movements, breath, and anything else that surrounds us or is within our environment. 

I am not a Buddhist monk and neither do I profess to understand the entire history of Buddhism.  I have read about it during my leisure time and practiced it on my own accord. However, I practice many things to center and ground myself and to create a deeper sense of awareness of who I am, why I am here, and what I am to do.   

Meditation Forms I Practiced
During the years of my healing process, I read and practiced many different forms of mindfulness meditation; many but not all, being quite rigid in their mannerisms of practice. Some included Buddhist meditation, mantra meditation, Zen meditation, Kundalini meditation, and transcendental meditation (via yoga). I also completed the yoga teacher training program with Prana Yoga College when Shaki Mhi was located in Vancouver, B.C.

A Few Ministerial Readings
When I wrote my ministerial thesis, however, I was interested in the Bhagavad Gita (simplified by Eknath Easwaran), A Course in Miracles, Carl G. Jung, Deepak Chopra, Klaus Heinemann, Peter Spink, Earnest Shurtleff Holmes, Joel S. Goldsmith, J. Krishnamurti, Osho, Edgar Cayce, and Helen P. Blavatsky (besides a few other teachers). Interestingly enough, I never included Dao De Jing. 

The Art of Mindfulness
In any event, what I learned from my array of readings is, why study one discipline or only one teaching? I learned so many valuable lessons from all of them that I believe I learned the art of mindfulness that fits me.  I also found so many of the same threads of information weaving throughout the words of all.  At times, when I continued to practice mindfulness medication, though, I sometimes felt like I was forced to choose one over the other, but over time I let go of that rigidity, and I now do my own thing; my own practice with what worked in the present moment.  By doing this, I learned so much about what the concept of meditation and mindfulness really is and I realized that I did NOT need to practice any one particular form in detail to get the most beneficial results. By being mindful of your needs, you can determine what works for you.

Healing Is A Dynamic Process

Healing Is A Dynamic Process ©

Healing is Not Straight Forward
My healing process, over time, has evolved into many forms.  When I look back to when my healing process began, I could never have imagined that the series of steps taken in healing was so dynamic.  When we look at healing the mind, body, and spirit, we usually think of one thing -- simply to heal what is bothering us: a broken relationship, a traumatic past, or recovery from an accident or surgery. That seems simple enough and quite straight forward, but that word in itself called simplicity paralleled with healing is an illusion because healing is not simple but rather complex, and it varies. 

Twig Growing and Stretching
Healing takes on the pattern of twigs trying to take their place within a tree as they grow and stretch.  You can't see this dynamic interplay as much when the leaves are attached to the branches, but when the scent of autumn comes and the leaves take wind, you begin to see the abundance of twigs and the interaction they have in the trees growth.  

The Endless Task of Healing
My healing process did not start with one formality and stay there.  Somehow I think I may have believed that this was the way it should happen, and, because I believed it, healing felt like an endless daunting task.

To Grow Is to Constantly Take On New Forms
What I realize, when I look back to my past and see how I have progressed, is that healing is definitely dynamic; it constantly takes on new forms. Just looking at my past healing processes, I went from spirituality and mysticism, to life coaching, to various modalities of alternative therapies, counselling, and now nursing. (Although a nursing job is not on my agenda. I will use the education for my business). In the process of healing, though, I have also grown significantly in wisdom and internal strength which has led me to a dynamic career in which I am able to apply all the concepts I have learned.

Healing Is Not Contained to Healing
In the end, healing is not contained to just healing one's mind, body, and spirit.  It does this, for sure, at a significant level when you seek it tenaciously and with determination and when you don't give up, but it does so much more to our lives. It opens us up to so many new possibilities. In the process of healing, I have discovered who I was, who I am, and who I can be or dare to be, as well as where I was, where I am, today, and where I can or dare to go.  I have discovered a whole new me and an entire new world with so many new possibilities.

Your Take Away  
If you are thinking about the healing process or are in the healing process, be tenacious, be strong, and seek various forms of healing. Healing really does come down to doing the work; it's hard and it can be painful, but don't get stuck in one modality believing that it is the only one that will miraculously do the work. It may take you a few years. You may hop from one healing process to another. Nonetheless, in the end, you will discover something or someone that is anticipating you as much as you are anticipating her. . . YOU. . .  your higher you.

Mindfulness Can Help You Heal

I want to discuss, let's say, the modern version of mindfulness, or the quality of being aware or awake to something, and how mindfulness can help us heal.

We Have So Much Stuff!
Normally, in life, we are wrapped up in our 'stuff.'  Our stuff consists of things like our job, participating in research studies and volunteer positions, keeping a social media presence, being a mother, student, daughter, or nurse. Basically, our stuff is the roles we take on in life; these can be many. Our stuff can also consist of our busyness such as shopping, cleaning, driving, worrying, stressing, or hurting, for example.  Most of us have a lot of stuff, so our minds and body's stay busy with our tasks. We become absorbed in what we are doing, but not in a mindful manner where we are present to our situation. We become so busy that we become mindless meaning that we aren't present.

Mindfulness or Awareness
Today a few argue that awareness and mindfulness are two different things.  I disagree.  If you are consciously and fully aware to what you are doing, you are awake. If your thoughts move on or wander; if you get distracted by various tasks, ideas and to-do list or by your surroundings, then you are no longer aware. Mindfulness is about noticing what is going on in your present moment; being in the here and now. This is also called awareness which can be said to be consciousness of the situation at hand or realization.

With Mindfulness
With mindfulness, there is a conscious effort to be present to my experiences continuously. To hear and see my thoughts stream by, to feel the sensations flushing my body, to notice the twitches and itches and tingles, and to observe the feelings that come and go like the ebb and flow of the tide.

With mindfulness, I am paying attention on purpose without judgment; this is the conscious effort I undertake in being mindful or aware. As I sit here writing, I am present to my feet resting on the sides of the cold and hard metal chair. I am aware of the fan in the background and the breeze on my left cheek. I am aware of the dull pain in my right shoulder. I can hear the birds chirping in the yard and the car that just drove by. I am also paying attention to my body posture, my wrists as I type, and my breath.  I make sure the I am mindful of everything within and around me, and, if and when I need to, I adjust.

With mindfulness, I am so in tune to myself, my body and my surroundings, that if I have a need for a glass of water, for instance like right now, I go and get it. If I notice a pain in my back, I go and stretch. What is good about mindfulness is that you are consciously, or purposefully, paying close attention to what is happening and when you feel a need to adjust, such as go for a jog or a stretch or a glass of water, you do it immediately. You don't hesitate.

Without Mindfulness
Without mindfulness, we either don't adjust or we react uncontrollably. Without mindfulness, I  wouldn't have recognized that I was thirsty, and after a few hours had passed, I would wonder why I didn't feel well. Without mindfulness, if I had feelings of anger arise, I would react without thinking rationally.

How Can Mindfulness Help You? 
Mindfulness can help us heal.  If you are struggling emotionally with painful memories, being present with those feelings, no matter how much they hurt in the moment, and allowing them to pass without judgment will help heal your pain. Think of these hurtful feelings and memories as a river. The river continues to flow. It may divert around a boulder or rise on the shore, but it never stops. With your thoughts and feelings, let them flow.

If you follow this process consistently, over time, you will notice improvements in the pain you hold in your heart. However, this is not a deterrent to see a professional. This is something that can be added to therapy.

The Illusion that We Are Not Darkness

The Ascending Quality of the Lotus Flower, 
 and How it Translates to the Healing Process 

 "I must have a dark side also to be whole." -Carl Jung 

The lotus flower and the healing process. 
The growing of the lotus flower has similar qualities as a person heals from the heaviness and murkiness of darkness. Darkness can be attributed to the likeness of symptoms and behavior left behind from an abusive and dysfunctional family such as depression, anger, or shame, for example. While in the mud of darkness, the stored, or potential, energy begins to move, such as with the implementation of therapy. Therapy (a catalyst for the stored energy to become kinetic energy) causes a movement of energy in the mind to create awareness.

The hidden parts of the lotus seed.
You cannot see this aspect of movement or growth within the shell of the seed or within the cranium. You can only feel something is going on within. The shoots, then, burst out of the shell's seed, the aha moments, and slowly rises to the surface of the water where leaves are formed. Finally, where light is, the flower begins to blossom; this is the new-found you or self-discovery.

What we don't see is that the lotus flower is still attached to roots in the mud at the bottom of the pond, and the only way that it will survive is if it remains attached. Only the beauty of the leaves and the flower appear for you and others to see, but don't get stuck in the illusion that there is only beauty and light. So, if you are the lotus flower, you will realize that you are always connected to darkness, no matter what. You cannot survive without it.

Resisting darkness. 
So why is it that we resist darkness? We blame it, hate it, try to muzzle it, discriminate upon it, spit at it, hurt it, and bury it.

"Our greatest treasure is that which is hidden deep within our own subconscious; it is that dark unused part of our self that is in fact light that is unconscious of itself." -Carl Jung 

FEAR! Fear is the culprit of denying darkness. Fear of the unknown and what we may discover about ourselves.

"There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." -Carl Jung

Social norms to resist darkness. 
However, let us not forget about the SOCIAL NORMS. Social norms are rules of behavior that are considered acceptable in a group, and people who do not follow these norms most often are shunned or suffer some sort of consequence. Whether or not you want to believe it, the majority of us are a world of pleasers and followers. This does not mean that being a follower is a bad thing. We can't all be leaders.

Social norms are a good thing. They provide order. They guide and predict behavior in social relationships, and they allow us to make some sense and understanding of each other's actions. On the other hand, social norms produce pressure to conform to social roles and beliefs held by the majority. Even if we don't whole-heartedly believe in a concept, we conform to the expectations of others, and we will respond by their approval or disapproval. This is how the majority of us live our lives. However, will you be the one to begin questioning the social norms for truth?

I see the social norms today as telling only part of the truth when it comes to the healing process, not the whole truth. Social norms, today, consist of looking into the light as though there is no darkness. The social norms are to be happy and positive and to leave the dark past behind--to never look back--because this will make your life empowering and successful. To some degree this is very true, but we cannot forget about acknowledging and responding to darkness.

Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment on social norms. 
 I recently reread an article on the Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment only a couple of weeks ago when I was completing an online Research Ethics tutorial. The participants adapted to their roles of prisoner and guard. The guards enforced authoritarian measures and subjected prisoners to psychological torture. The prisoners passively accepted the psychological abuse. They also harassed other prisons at the request of the guards.

So, how does this all sum up? Each one of us is composed of light as well as darkness. Without one or the other, we would not be alive. You can see how each play or live within each of us: some express more light, others express more darkness. What we need is more balance between the two. So in order to live harmoniously or balanced or to have some sense of peace-of-mind, we need to acknowledge and respond to our darkness, not deny or hide it. We need to learn how to manage it successfully without shunning it and resisting it. This means that we need to look at it, examine it, ask it questions, and accept that it is a part of us. Our growth would, essentially, not happen and is not complete without darkness.

"Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of others people." 
-Carl Jung