Each of us has preferences of what we like, and don't like. Naturally, we react to these by trying to hold on to what we like, and push away what we don't like. Unfortunately, life isn't this simple, it is filled with a mixture of the pleasant and the unpleasant, and no amount of clinging or rejecting will hold off the ups and downs of life forever.
As we saw last week with the Attitude of Acceptance, when we try to avoid or turn away from painful experiences, it can increase suffering. It is the same with joyful experiences, when we try to hold on to them, we can end up sucking the joy out of them. Think of when we try to hold on too tight to a loved one, and they feel smothered, or when we don't want the good night to end, and we have another drink, and suffer the next day.
Life is ever changing, and nothing lasts forever. Painful experiences will pass (despite them seeming like they won't!), and and joyful experiences will also pass, leaving us enriched, and better for them..
We can practice the art of letting go using the breath.
• Take a deep breath in, and on the out-breath relax the body.
• On the next inhale, think think about how you need to let that breath go in order to inhale again.
• Continue this practice for the rest of the minute, mindful of the cycle of the breath.
• Reflect on how you trust the next breath to come all by itself, you don't need to do anything.
• We have to let go in order to move on to the next breath.
“To let go means to give up coercing, resisting, or struggling, in exchange for something more powerful and wholesome which comes out of allowing things to be as they are without getting caught up in your attraction to or rejection of them, in the intrinsic stickiness of wanting, of liking and disliking.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn
This week's Weekly minute is the second in the "9 Attitudes of Mindfulness" series, and it explores the Attitude of Acceptance.
No person's life runs completely smoothly, we all face trials and difficulties, no matter who we are. When we fight against, or resist our challenges, we waste energy, and inadvertently increase the pain of them. Imagine this equation: Suffering = Pain x Resistance
When we can accept things as they are, we come out of 'struggle', and into a more relaxed state, which allows for creativity and wisdom, so we can choose a better way forward. It's like the old movies when the hero was stuck in quicksand, and it was only when they stopped struggling, and relaxed the body, that they could stay on top long enough to be rescued!
• For the next minute (or more if you have time), bring your attention to the body, working from the head down to the feet, noticing any sensations that are present.
• If you encounter an unpleasant sensation like an itch, or a cramp, or pins and needles, see if you can stay with it, and be curious about it.
• Does it come and go or is it constant? Does it have heat or cool? Is it sharp or dull?
• Notice how it changes.
• Try to just be with the sensation, accepting that nothing lasts forever, and neither will this.
• Breathe into the discomfort.
• Return to your day, with the intention to bring this attitude of acceptance to challenges you may meet throughout your day.
"This attitude sets the stage for acting appropriately in your life, no matter what is happening. You are much more likely to know what to do and have the inner conviction to act when you have a clear picture of what is actually happening versus when your vision is clouded by your mind's self-serving judgments and desires or its fears and prejudices." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
This week sees the beginning of a series exploring the 9 Attitudes of Mindfulness, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the father of modern mindfulness practice. Jon encourages the cultivation of these attitudes to support and enhance your mindfulness practice.
The first of the 9 Attitudes is Non Judging. - As we move through our days the mind is busy categorising and labelling almost everything we come into contact with, both out in the world, and in our inner experience.
We are constantly assessing what we want/don't want, like/don't like, want to approach/want to avoid, are good at/not good at. These judgments can lead us to respond to the world through automatic reactions that we are often not aware of, and to be in a state of discontentment in our own selves.
It would be an impossible task to stop judgments altogether, but what we can do is become aware of them. When we become aware of our judgments, we are freeing ourselves from the tendency to act on them blindly, and have them disturb our peace.
• Bring your attention to your thoughts for the next minute, and observe them as they arise.
• Notice any judging thoughts such as: "I don't like this", I'm uncomfortable", "This is boring", etc.
• Resist the temptation to judge the judging, just label it "Judging", and return to paying attention.
• Try to bring this awareness of judgment with you through the day.
"If we are to find a more effective way of handling the stress in our lives, the first thing we need to do is to be aware of these automatic judgments so that we can see through our own usually unexperienced prejudices and fears and liberate ourselves from their tyranny." - Jon Kabat-Zinn
I imagine that many of you read this blog because you want more calm in your life, so we could say, that being calm is one of your goals. I know that part of the reason I write this blog is to keep myself on track with my goal of being more calm!
So, the next time that something disturbs your sense of peace and calm, (it could be a disagreement with someone, someone cutting you off in traffic, your boss talking down to you, etc.):
"Do not learn how to react. Learn how to respond."
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing legitimate tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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