It’s unrealistic to think there is an overnight cure. To think that gaining a few tools will cure our problems is a distraction from our discipline. Those of us with wisdom enough want to conserve our energy and focus on curing someone we have the most decision-making power over: OURSELVES. If we put energy into attempting to cure someone who thinks change isn’t possible or whose Wall is so high and strong that we aren’t even making a tiny dent in it, aren’t we wasting our time?
Instead, spending most of our time helping people who come wanting a cure or who are ready for a cure, including ourselves, is the best use of our time and energy. We don’t want to get burned out for nothing. But then, I suppose we could accept this as a life-pattern if we have a need to rescue or be helpful, and this is so great a need that we try to fix those who don’t want to be fixed. It can be like hammering our heads over and over against the Wall and hurting ourselves worse – like marrying yet another abusive person or getting beaten up all over again.
Mindfulness can be helpful here. We could discipline ourselves to be mindful of this head-hurting pattern in our lives and to be mindful of how helpful (or NOT!) it is to us to keep repeating this pattern. We could be mindful of how helpful this repeating pattern is to the person who isn’t ready for our cure. We could accept that it isn’t helpful to keep banging our head against a rock-hard Wall.
Now, we are at a choice point. We can continue to build tolerance to the pain. We can decide to stay with our feelings and not try to judge them as bad or push them away as we are in a habit of doing. By staying with our feelings, both negative and positive, we could learn to tolerate who we are (including all our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours). We could recognize we want to help another person so badly that we would hurt ourselves while trying. We could recognize the sacrifices we have made for others without any regard for our own well-being. If we choose to tolerate the pain even more, we could probably make the choice of continuing to help those who aren’t ready for the cure.
If we choose to tolerate our own role in creating our own pain and vulnerability, then we may be ready to forgive ourselves for hurting ourselves. We may even be ready to forgive those who have perpetrated pain upon us, because their own Walls prevent them from seeing our pain and from caring for our need to heal. And we know their Walls come from the same place ours do.
Clearly, this cure is a journey with no certain end. But if we begin climbing the steps of the ladder and start chipping away now, we will soon be a lot closer to gazing freely at a wide open future than if we wait 5, 10, or 50 more years. It is a choice to wait, to stay confined in a set of destructive patterns, to not look at these painful patterns because it just hurts too much. It is a choice to begin a life-changing practice now.
Here are a few tips to maintaining the practice of mindfulness:
- Appreciate the wandering nature of the mind – As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “There is no problem with this”
- Each time you notice your mind wandering, identify what it is your mind is focusing on, gently and without judgement bring your mind back to the life-sustaining breath
- For a devoted part of each day, allow yourself to notice your feelings (be they positive, neutral, or negative) each moment
- Notice the tendency to push negative feelings away
- Be aware that pushing negative feelings away tends to carry positive feelings away also – So, the more you try to push the negative feelings away, over the long-run, you will probably notice feeling more and more negative
- Notice that suppressing your feelings might not be in your best interest
- Allow yourself to sit with your various thoughts, feelings, and sensations without becoming attached to them
- As you notice yourself thinking, feeling, sensing, and acting in various ways in your daily lives, also let yourself become aware of your ability to look, as if from outside, as if from a third-party perspective, at these aspects of your life
- While noticing the wandering nature of the mind with a non-judgmental attitude, appreciate how your experience of your life broadens, widens, and opens up
- For more on mindfulness, see the links on my website or this list of recommended books.
My next series of blog entries will be about how opposition is coded in our nervous systems. I will explore the impacts that has on our emotions and our relationships.