Mindfulness is often associated with calmness and clarity. And, yes, usually it is about being centred and clear. However as humans we aren’t ever one mood, and a big part of my mindfulness practice in recent years has been developing an awareness of when I’m NOT calm, not peaceful. Times of anger, or shock, or disbelief. Intense disappointment is a time when it’s very useful to be non-judgementally aware, but it’s usually not how I initially respond.
Mindfulness here is about being able to create some space to see it all: the instantaneous emotional reaction, the brain playing catch up and the body acting all this out. In seconds so much can happen and suddenly I’m scrambled and trying to regain my equilibrium. Accepting all this without name calling or catastrophising is the path of mindfulness. How you do it is up to you, but until we can be the witness of upheaval rather than exclusively the victim our lives won’t change substantially.
We all have our moments. They often involve money, or something dissapointing us, or just a shock. My groceries cost more than I thought they would; my friend never called me back; someone I know has a terminal illness. I’m responding and my practice is to be aware of all that happens without losing my point of view as the witness, without falling into the mess of thoughts and feelings and getting lost in there.
Recently my mother died, and the aftermath has been a lot of powerful, painful feelings. Being mindful of this is harrowing at times, because the things coming up are not far from insanity. Anger, for instance, when faced calmly is clearly madness. How will hurting someone improve my life? It won’t, but anger is irrational. How to be the witness to things like anger that make me feel terrible?
The answer is mindfulness – the space of awareness that does not judge. It sounds simple. It is. But it can be awful hard work. My practice at the moment is trying to be in the body when the madness is raging, breathe and feel whatever is going on and accept it, knowing it will pass, knowing It will come and go again and again. My rational mind understands all this; my irrational mind doesn’t care. Balancing the two means going beyond what I’ve learnt and be with the simple brute fact of experiencing and accepting. It’s about trust. Being mindful of my madness will bring me to a better place. Eventually. What’s the alternative?