Something has happened this week which has triggered a very strong fear reaction in me. I notice my throat is dry and there is a dull ache in my heart and a feeling of emptiness in my stomach. I notice a tendency for my jaw to clench and for my hands to form into fists. All these are familiar feelings, unpleasant, but unusual in their intensity.
I notice my thoughts picking at the issue and following trains of thoughts that lead from one catastrophe to another. Can I refrain, not buy in to the story-line and come back to my breath just now?
I notice my habits of coping with distress kicking in as I reach for the next bag of crisps! Can I refrain and again come back to a present moment practice of self compassion?
I understand that the real thing I am afraid of is uncertainty and it is likely that uncertainty is going to persist for some time. So I am doing my best to stay present, sometimes saying loving kindness phrases for all involved and sometimes reminding myself that I cannot control this situation, that worrying will just make everything worse, that the only way out is through and that it won’t always be like this.
This is my mindfulness curriculum for today – fear – so how can I bring a kind curiosity to this? Kindness and curiosity will, I know, smooth my way through to accepting the situation as it is. This will create the conditions for insight and wisdom to emerge.
I am sending my mind some soothing feedback from my body – breathing deeply and relaxing my hands and jaw when I notice them clench. Later on I will listen to the music that soothes me. I am connecting with my family and friends and feel their support. In this way, I will take care of myself during this time of difficulty.
This is all I can do, as I wait for the causes and conditions to unfold around me – to just be curious, to just be kind to myself and others, as best I can.
It is hard, but the only way to experience the 10% of pain and not add to this the 90% of suffering which my ruminating will pile on if I don’t pay attention, is to practice mindfulness.
I am being driven home from a long weekend in the highlands, so I will enjoy the view of misty Loch Lomond and the craggy hills of this beautiful place. When I tune into this moment, it is actually OK. That is the magic of mindfulness. I am truly grateful for my practice.
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
As I reflect on this a day later, it seems amazing to me that I was so affected by this fear. It has now passed. Only the occasional quiver remains. The letting be with kindly curiosity helped. What also helped was choosing going on the running machine yesterday afternoon and then some evening yoga – the physical movement helped shift the stickiness of the feelings of fear. Good to know for next time!
Learning the skills and tools to be with difficulty when it arises is part of our mindfulness training. If you would like to learn these skills and tools, why not sign up for our Level 1: Being Present course? We have courses starting all throughout the UK – Samye Ling, Manchester, Edinburgh and online! Click here for more details and book a course!