Life is good. And yet, I seem to allow myself to suffer. The cause of my suffering? My mind of course! I notice I have been quite serious lately. A bit weighed down with my negative thought patterns. The resistance in this feels like sticky dark treacle clouding my mind – clinging to negative thoughts. In his book Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson says that the mind clings to the negative like Velcro, and yet the positive thoughts and intentions slide away from the mind like Teflon. I have had a real sense of this recently. Despite this resistance I have had to consciously work through it and surrender to life.
Whilst life is good, it’s also been very busy. Hectic in fact. I have this relatively new job with the Mindfulness Association. I really love this job and am grateful for it.
I have been travelling a lot. I’ve had the opportunity to teach Mindfulness Level 1 at Samye Ling in Scotland and on a retreat in Spain. I’m also teaching mindfulness regularly in Sweden, which means days of catching trains, buses and planes. Furthermore, teaching mindfulness to young carers under the Everyone Project charity has led me to drive for two hours weekly over a couple of months.
Travelling has found its way into other parts of my life. I have a close friend I see regularly, who lives 200 miles away from me. This involves more trains or long car journeys. I find travelling exciting and I like it and I am very happy staying with my friend.
I have to travel to Manchester every other Tuesday for the MAHQ meetings with my Mindfulness Association colleagues. I love these meetings where we all work together.
I sit here now writing this on the 6:30 train to Manchester, having got up at 4:15 after 6 hours sleep. Do I feel tired? No.
Also I am fortunate to have a lovely 5-year-old boy in my life, my grandson, who is source of joy. We share a close relationship and I spend a whole day most weeks hanging out with him. Is this tiring? Not really – it’s fun.
Life is good, so why have I felt heavy with seriousness and gloom?
I thought it was because I have been over busy and overwhelmed by the constant change of being here and there. Switching from caring for a 5-year-old, travelling to teach mindfulness, doing my communications job for the MA and spending time with my friends. But no, that isn’t it. Then I thought it was because I’m ‘maturing’ and feeling tired. After all I should be slowing down now?? I think not.
So, what’s been wrong? My thinking has been wrong! I’d fallen into a vortex of desire.
Whilst doing my mindfulness meditation over the weekend I suddenly had an insight. I realised that instead of relishing all the joy I have in my life, I have been focussing on all the negatives and ruminating on the past. I’ve allowed fear of losing some of these good things to take over. This has led to a feeling of unworthiness. I have talked myself into being tired and overwhelmed, whereas in reality I am not at all. Even though life is good, I realised that I actually want certain things to be even better. Now here is my confession – I see I had a desire for it to be perfect – my way and now! I detected a sense of resentment creeping in. Moreover, how did I feel when I had this realisation? Well, I didn’t feel good about myself at all.
“Many of us desire situations in our lives to be different, while others desire parts of ourselves to be different, feeling that we are not good enough as we are”!
There it was staring me in the face! I had fallen into the vortex of desire. Once spiralling away in this vortex of desire, I had been focussing on what was wrong rather than what is right. This had led to overthinking. All the busyness and travelling, in what is a very fulfilling life, had destabilised me a bit but only because I thought it had. Actually, I’m perfectly ok. The only thing that was getting me down was my mind and its overthinking in a negative spiral. And it was that which was hard work and tiring!
The remedy is my mindfulness practice of course. But I recognise the importance of integrating mindfulness practice into daily life rather than depending on my formal practice.
By noticing what is happening while it is happening (the definition of mindfulness), I am able to notice when my mind is spinning off into the whirlpool of negative thinking. So now I am practicing being present in all that I do and feeling happy in that. I received some teachings at the weekend and realised that it is possible to be happy even though there are things present that are not as I would desire.
In order to further train my mind, I am practicing resting my mind on a simple mantra, my breath, the feel of my body or sounds around me as I travel from place to place and engage in activities. Just as in our formal practice we are trained to rest 20% of the mind on a support such as breath or sound, in my daily life I am gently resting it on a support wherever I am, whatever I am doing, whenever possible, with kindness. Having a crazy mind isn’t my fault, so I see I need to be kind to myself and even laugh at myself when I forget or get caught in the negative mind trap.
In the book – From Mindfulness to Insight – it explains how our sense of self is inflated by our desires and dissatisfaction. Once we notice what is going on, we have a choice to lessen our cravings, which
“enhances our capacity to enjoy life and increases our sensitivity to the richness and diversity of our experience”.
This is the beauty of the fruits of our practice. The insight and wisdom that arises from our mindfulness practice.
I invite you to check in with your life right now. Notice what is good and what is bothering you. Notice what is happening while it is happening. Become aware of having dropped into the vortex of desire for things to be different to how they actually are and how that is affecting you. Is it possible to be present and mindful with all that is happening in your life today and still have a sense of happiness for what is right?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences so please do leave a comment or respond to me personally by email.
I wish you well in your practice and your lives. This stuff isn’t always easy, but the fruits of our labour is a priceless gift for living our lives well and ultimately benefiting those around us.
Hanson, R., 2009. Buddha’s brain: The practical neuroscience of happiness, love, and wisdom. New Harbinger Publications.