I have always read books about meditation, breathing, and being mindful but it had always been a struggle to put these ideas into practice within my hectic and stressful life, as I think is the case for many people.
Our lives are so full of things to do and places to be, that we get lost and forget how to breathe, we forget to be in the here and now, and we forget what is really important in the midst of everything going on around us.
This course really allowed me to take a step back from life and focus on myself, which was a nice change from being so rushed and busy all the time.
In addition to that, I learned a lot of wonderful information, and I want to share some of that with you today.
So the basic outline of the class centered on mindfulness and what that looks like in the everyday world. Before arriving I had a vague idea of what mindfulness consisted of, but the teacher described it as the act of paying attention on purpose, and focusing on the right here, right now. She also explained how in most situations in our lives, we tend to react instead of respond, which was another big aspect of the course.
Reacting to a situation might entail some sort of action, whereas responding might entail more awareness and acceptance.
This was a huge eye opener for me, as I tend to be guarded and defensive in a lot of situations, so trying to focus more on responding and accepting is a sure challenge for me to practice.
Another exercise made me think of something I talked about in one of my last posts about focusing on different points of our bodies in relation to ED. This type of awareness, focusing on each part instead of just the ones ED wants you to focus on can help us see our bodies as more than just the parts we don't like.
After that we learned about the four noble truths. The first truth is that life has suffering. Life is painful, there is sickness, old age, death, unexpected things happening, hurt, etc. The second truth describes the cause for suffering as wanting things to be different than they are. Of course sometimes its okay to want something more or set a goal to be better in order to get something different, but suffering comes when we are obsessed about wanting something to be different.
So say, I wanted my body to look a certain way but it didn't. I could let it go and accept that I was not going to look that way, or I could become obsessed about it and continue wanting to be different, and in turn I would suffer.
The third truth revealed that freedom from suffering is in fact possible, and the fourth truth tells us how to get that freedom, which is called the eightfold path. The eightfold path includes eight different things that allow us to access freedom. They are wise view, wise intention, wise, speech, wise action, wise livelihood, wise effort, wise mindfulness and wise concentration.
These eight things help us on the path to freedom.
So that was the basic learning points from the class, but the most helpful part was more the exercises and practices we did.
The most helpful one that we did was breathing into our pain. We laid down on the ground and began to stretch out our bodies. As we stretched and we started to feel pain, we would take our breath and breathe into that area and then as we exhaled, we would focus on letting the breathe wash away that pain.
It's weird to explain it, but it's a lot like the practice of yoga. We learn to breathe through the pain and tension. It works! I had a lot of pain in my hips and neck but as I began to take my breathing there, I was able to let most of it go and relax.
It's amazing what just breathing can do.
I also learned that from breathing into the pain within our bodies, we can breath into the pain in our lives. If we are going through a difficult situation or emotion, taking our breath there and breathing through it can really allow the feeling or thoughts to soften and drift away.
The whole thing with mindfulness and meditation, however, is that it's not a quick fix. It takes practice and a lot of focus. Many of the exercises we did involved sitting and just being quiet as we watched our thoughts, but it was hard!
It was hard because our brains are always thinking, I am constantly thinking or planning out something, weather it be going over a mistake from the past or worrying over something that hasn't happened yet, my brain never stops. And mindfulness is the practice of watching these thoughts and seeing if we can turn them off for a little while.
Is it possible to be in this moment right here and right now?
Yes and no. If you start to practice meditation you'll find that no matter how hard you try to keep your brain from thinking, it'll end up back there again and again.
So the practice is just that. Continually bringing your mind back to the moment, back to the breath. So a lot of commitment is involved.
And the last thing I wanted to touch on was something the teacher kept coming back to throughout the whole day, which was paying attention to our pain, and holding it.
As humans we love to push the pain away and grab for the positives. But doing this creates an unbalanced and un-centered person. Just imagine reaching your hand away as if you were about to grab something nice. Now at the same time reach your other hand in the opposite direction as though you are trying to push something not so nice away. How does your body look?
Of balance right?
So the lesson here is that we can't have the positive without having the negative. We must look our pain or struggle right in the eye and acknowledge that it is there, and once we can do that, we can begin to move towards the positives.
There was so much to learn and so much to take in that it's impossible to explain it all right now, but I hope these things made you think, maybe helped you in some way or another.
I will share more in other posts as well!
Have you ever done meditation? Practiced mindfulness? If so, what was your experience?