By Paula Noyce, Counsellor and Mindfulness Practitioner
Please don’t stop reading already, I am not going to be suggesting we ‘om’ ourselves through the next four months,,,,
We are, indeed, living in a time of crisis unprecedented in our lifetimes and it is an extremely uncomfortable experience, whether we are frontline professionals or witnesses to the experiences of others.
Mindfulness shows us that experience is sensed first (sight sound smell touch taste) and then interpreted by the mind, albeit so fast we don’t realise it. How we feel emotionally becomes how we feel physically.
When this is the total of how we experience our life, we can become tired and drained.
I found a great Rumi quote: ‘Don’t be the rider who gallops all night and never sees the horse that is beneath him’.
If you wish to, try this noticing exercise: If you can, have a small drink with you and take a couple of really small sips before you begin, barely enough to wet your lips.
Then, see if you can gently begin to take your attention along the highlighted words below. Just notice your responses, this is not a test.
Difficult Involved Dangerous Skilled Striving Valued Fear Stable Confused
Anxious Stoic Clarity Simple Desperate Safe Peaceful Calm Ease
How are you feeling now? Perhaps you got two words along and didn’t want to continue. That’s ok, it’s not a test. Notice whether you are judging any of your responses and then simply take a sip of your drink. Try to stay aware of swallowing it. Then, if you wish to, continue the exercise
Direction Unknown Pause Unbalanced Relief Exhausted Resolve Isolated
Allow Discomfort Brave Uneasy Heightened Spacious Stressed Rested
Revived Relaxed Centered Known Dread Grounded Yield
Perhaps you chose to stop next to a particular word. Notice how you feel now. If you wish to reflect on the experience, see if you can do that from a sense of curiosity. There is no right or wrong, simply your awareness of your experience.
Mindfulness can’t cure the Coronavirus or change what is happening, but it can change the way we experience ourselves in it. By developing a non-judgmental self-awareness we give ourselves the chance to choose a gentler perspective with some moments of mindfulness.
In troubled times it can be difficult to trust that the simplicity of a moment of mindfulness will make any difference at all. If a mindful moment is simply ‘stopping to notice the shape and rhythm of your breathing and see if it could soften and deepen back into a regulated pattern without judging any of the process’ (mindful.org), it might feel too simple to help us work through such difficult moments, as the effort of galloping through the night on our horse as Rumi suggests. But it doesn’t mean we won’t try and help, rather support ourselves while we are trying.
If the idea of mindfulness is too much like navel-gazing for you, try thinking of it as being a great tactician.
Whatever the words are that will invoke in you an awakening to the fact that a mind that needs to achieve needs a body that can carry it, please don’t stop here…..
Journeys bring power and love
back into you.
If you can’t go somewhere,
move in the passageways of the self.
They are like shafts of light,
always changing, and you change
when you explore them.
13th Century Sufi Poet
If you would like to know more about mindfulness and how it can help, here are some links and suggestions:
For tactics, read Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War
Try Dr Sarah Allen’s seven simple grounding techniques for calming down (drsarahallen.com/7-ways-to-calm)
Try watching the brilliant TedTalk given by Kristin Neff called, The Space between Self Esteem and Self Compassion. TedxCentennialParkWomen – YouTube