It is very early in the morning and I am struggling to sleep. I woke up with feelings of fear and overwhelm and have spent the last hour or so lying in bed practicing. Part of me wishes the feelings would go away and part of me is curious about what can be learned.
I attempted my whole range of approaches to these feelings.
I applied my mindfulness practice. I became aware of the thoughts I was experiencing, the range of emotions I was feeling and the physical sensations that were arising in the body. All were connected to familiar themes of failure, not being good enough and being rejected. This was interesting, but there was something underpinning the feelings of fear and overwhelm that my mindfulness practice could not reveal.
I applied my self-compassion practice. I held my body in a hug of self-soothing and reminded myself that this was a difficult experience, difficult experiences are an inevitable part of the human condition and explored how I could be kind to myself.
Part of being kind to myself is exploring the experience by writing this blog.
Part was to reassure myself that like all human beings I was not perfect and this was not my fault. I was doing my best in difficult circumstances, in the face of the culmination of a multitude of difficult circumstances. I could allow myself – again – to be a compassionate mess.
Part of being kind to myself was to bring to mind a sense of fundamental OKness, which I can do by bringing to mind some of my teachers. I felt supported and nurtured by this.
This self-compassion practice helps to cultivate my inner soothing system, which is then able to regulate my inner threat system. There is a physiological response and I relax a bit.
I applied my insight practice. I know from previous practice, that the nature of impermanence means that I will look back in a week or so with a sense of bemusement about how I could have been so caught up. This helps bring perspective.
Then I ask myself what storylines, expectations, assumptions, beliefs am I buying in to? I see how I am fuelling the threat system by imagining all sorts of calamitous future consequences. Telling myself stories of catastrophe to fuel my suffering.
I let go of the storylines and look directly inwardly at the energy of the fear and overwhelm, allowing myself to feel the feelings. I recognise a deeply held belief that I have to be perfect to be accepted and to avoid rejection.
I feel an instant wave of warm relaxation course through my body as I write and reflect on the previous sentence. Relief. A smile and an inner chuckle. The seeing is the doing. I have recognised the underlying belief, that it is not true, and the resulting transformation does itself.
I rejoice that I have the courage and commitment to turn towards my own inner mess, with compassion, and that I have trained in insight. These practices give me the tools to find some equanimity and fundamental OKness in the most difficult of times. I am truly grateful.
This is the lifelong path of training, which we offer at the Mindfulness Association. Mindfulness Level 1: Being Present, Compassion Level 2: Responding with Compassion, Insight Level 3: Seeing Deeply and then our Mindfulness for Life program. If you have already trained in Mindfulness, there are pathways to access our Compassion course or access our Insight course.
I recommend this training, for when you wake up in the early morning, unable to sleep due to fear and overwhelm. I recommend this training to all of those who are subject to the human condition!