“Who are you? Who are you? I am a walrus……”

MINDFULNESS AS A PATH TO SELF AWARENESS AND AWAKENING

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Originally posted 2014 

For those of you growing up in the 80’s you will know this is a quote from “The Breakfast Club”. As you will remember, the key characters (all teenagers in a weekend detention) are asked to write an essay describing who they think they are. The “nerd” of the group sticks two pens in his mouth and says “I am a walrus”…….makes me laugh every time!

Anyway, from the wisdom of the “Breakfast Club” to the insights of one of the most incredible spiritual leaders of our time….Eckhart Tolle. One of my all time favourite quotes from “The Power of Now” is on page 4 of his book (I probably remember it so clearly as I have started to read this book about 300 times – finished it only once….). He is describing his long battle with depression. He goes on to detail what he noticed to be happening in his mind during a particularly dark time for him.

“I cannot live with myself any longer”, this was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then, suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. “Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.” “Maybe” I thought, “only one of them is real”

Every time I read this, it helps me to remember that ‘I’ am so much more than what I and other people habitually “see”.

‘I’ am not the car I drive, the books I read, the way I do my hair or the relationships I have (sounds a bit like a quote from Fight Club). All of those external things belong to the ‘self’ that I have created to allow me to live in this physical modern world.

It has taken me forever to grasp this concept. I have always had a sense that there was “more” to this whole life thing. That surely there was more to it than the colour of my jeans, the career I choose or the handbag I carry. And so, I have finally understood that we truly do have many parts (body, mind, heart and spirit). And so often, these parts are so disconnected from each other that we are not truly functioning at our best.

For the purpose of this blog, lets just focus on two of them – the ‘I” (spirit) and the ‘self’ (mind).

Mindfulness is a tool that supports us to discover direct access to the ‘I’. How do we find this ‘I’ in the madness of our lives? I can assure you it is lying somewhere between the phonecall to your boss and the dinner you are about to prepare……

 Think of a time when you have felt truly and deeply content…when time seemed to stop and you felt like you were just in “flow”,

 When the incessant chatter of your mind took a break,

 When your body felt whole and complete and truly divine, perhaps even a little tingly.

For most people, this happens when they are doing something they are passionate about like dancing, singing, painting, playing an instrument, listening to music, connecting with nature, doing yoga or cooking. For some lucky people, they even experience this when they are working….

A time you feel the worries, the planning and the obsessing just melt away. When you feel clear headed, stimulated but calm, when you feel aware and tuned in.

A time you feel connected to another – you feel your hearts meeting, you no longer feel separate or alone…..

This all happens when you are in touch with your ‘I’ and when you allow your ‘self’ to take a back seat.

I am hoping to paint a picture of where mindfulness can bring you. The irony is that you are already there, some of the time, you just are not aware of it.

So, the question remains, who are you? Do you really know your true essence? Who would you be if we took away the money, the relationships, the body, the career? Mindfulness is one path that can help you to find out. You never know, you may discover you are not actually a walrus after all.

What is Mindfulness?

MINDFULNESS IS SIMPLE BUT SIMPLE DOESN’T MEAN EASY

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Originally posted 2012

“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through moment to moment, non-judgement awareness” Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness is simple but simple does not mean easy.

The simplicity lies in the fact that to be mindful we do not have to DO anything, we just have to BE. Therein lies the difficulty. We are so conditioned to DO that we don’t remember how to just BE. Mindfulness is about attending to what is really going on, not what we think is going on. It is about being aware of what is happening now and not being carried away in the past or absorbed in a fantasy of the future. Take some time to observe a 2 year old. They are not stuck in the past or obsessing about the future, they are wholly and solely focused on this very train they are playing with, or this very bug they are crushing! And then observe the pure happiness or joy they experience from the smallest things – wouldn’t it be great if we could all remember how to do that? We were all 2 once (a very long time ago for some of us!).

 According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (and the broader Buddhist tradition) there are seven key areas to focus on when cultivating mindfulness in your life. These are:

1.       Non- Judgement – adopting the role of “observer”, an impartial witness to your experience
2.            Patience – knowing that things will unfold in their own time
3.            Beginner’s mind – noticing that no moment is the same, reveling in the wonder of the now
4.            Trust – developing a trust in yourself and your feelings
5.            Non-striving – letting go of the desire to “get somewhere”
6.            Acceptance – a willingness to see things as they really are
7.     Letting go – allowing thoughts, feelings and situations to be what they are and not attaching a desire to control them

These seven areas are all good and well I hear you say! But what about when I am stuck in traffic with a screaming child in the back, running late for a music class I don’t even want to go to, on the phone to a demanding boss and trying to each lunch…..how do I adopt a non-judging, patient, beginner’s mind, accept, trust and let go while releasing my desire to “get somewhere”? I hope to cover each of these seven attitudes in more detail in my blog in the future but in short, you just be where you are…..you remove the additional stress of worrying about not being where you would like to be…..you just allow yourself to be there – in all of the chaos. Step back mentally and watch it all happening, as though it were happening to someone else. Remove the pressure and just watch……and breathe, God, don’t forget to breathe. 

The breath is a key tool in cultivating mindfulness. Our breath provides a trusty refuge for us in the chaos of our modern lives. In the past, I would become so annoyed when people would lecture me about the wonderful qualities of the breath….”the breath this, the breath that, bla bla bla, yadda yadda, yadda…” I used to think. But after a very long sales process, I have finally bought into the idea of the power of the breath. It truly does provide the bridge between body and mind and is a very excellent tool that is there for us to use all the time.

So, there it is - a quick definition of mindfulness. Seems far too short for such a massive topic. However something that has constantly occurred to me is the feeling that we tend to use so many complicated whizz-bang words to explain such a simple topic. I think one of my early teachers captured it in three simple words “awareness, awareness, awareness”.