A journey into mindfulness #6

My journey into mindfulness has ended, but I can’t avoid the cliché that it is only just the beginning. The course has set the foundation for a richer, more fulfilled life that is there for the taking. In only eight weeks of instruction and weekly meetings and16 hours of guidance, I have achieved a paradigm shift in my outlook and my sense of being.

In our final class, we undertake one last meditation as a group, and I feel that we all give ourselves completely to this ultimate experience of meditating together. , The meditation is one of the deepest that I’ve achieved. For a while, I lose my sense of being as I lose the realisation that I am actually meditating. Unlike other meditations, I can’t remember many details, like a dream that is lost upon waking up.

Someone shares about having an out of body experience, the initial fear of the unknown, but knowing they were in a safe space, so opening up to it and achieving a sense of peace afterwards.  I didn’t have this fear. I seemed to move into a deep state of relaxation where I lost awareness. And we all seem to have achieved this deep sense of relaxation, there is a noticeable shift of the energy in the room. We are all tired and in a state of reflection.

After the break, we start to share our experiences and changes that we’ve noticed throughout the course. First, we share this in pairs, and then with the rest of the group. While all of our experiences are different, they are all positive stories, of better relationships, more focus, healthy ways of being, feeling reduced stress, being happier, being able to cope with the chaos and demands of modern life.

Looking back at my first blog I can see this change unfold in my narrative. I remember the trepidation, the anxiety, the awkwardness and the excitement of that first lesson. The person I then seemed so far away from who I am now. It has been a life changing experience on many different levels. I understand how incredulous this sounds to people because it sounds incredulous to me.

But science and recent studies continue to back up this subjective experience. The minds of meditators have smaller amygdalas, the part of the brain that is important for fear and stress. While other areas to do with mind wandering, self-relevance, learning, compassion, memory and emotional regulation, all gain in thickness and brain matter. And the changes can be seen after only eight weeks of regular practice.

It isn’t only my subjective experience and science that confirm there have been changes. My partner and close friends have noticed that I’m happier, more engaged and calmer. The biggest benefit I’ve noticed is the loss of anxiety. I never realised how much this impacted my life and my focus. I now sit down, work and maintain focus for the day. I’m also able to be more focused when coaching my clients, quickly moving into a listening state to search for the meaning behind their words.

The journey definitely wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared when I started the course. There were times that I felt discomfort and dissatisfaction. Paradoxically, one side-effect of becoming more self-aware is that you realise there are things about yourself you’d like to change. This realisation is uncomfortable, but also useful. If you don’t become aware of your behaviours that you want to change, you’ll never do anything about them.

There were times that I retreated into myself as I thought through these periods of discomfort, and ironically my partner suggesting that I wasn’t fully present. This feedback was useful, and I realised I didn’t have to withdraw, that I could engage, be happy and yet still be introspective. All feelings are moment by moment events, and I’m starting to catch the unhelpful feelings of anger and frustration just as they start to happen. I hope that with continuing practice I’ll be able to catch those responses earlier and earlier until I’m able to choose to respond more creatively.

This journey would not have been possible without the support of my instructor, my course mates and my partner. I feel integrating mindfulness and meditation into your life fully can only be done with support. The weekly sessions became a safe space for us to talk and share experiences, hearing both the positive and negative experiences of my teacher and others motivated me to keep practising. Having a supportive and understanding partner at home helped enormously, something I am truly grateful for and lucky to have.

There were many reasons for writing this blog, like self-promotion, marketing, recording my experiences, and sharing these experiences with others. But it doesn’t feel like this journey has ended. I feel even more committed to following this path of meditation and mindfulness. I know that I want to share this gift with others if they are willing to receive it because it truly is a gift that you can give to yourself and others around you.

And it isn’t about becoming some kind of cultist and dancing naked in the early morning sun while chanting. Meditation and mindfulness are simply about coming to terms with who you are and having a better, more compassionate relationship with yourself. Ultimately, it helps you have better, more compassionate relationships with those around you. It helps you navigate the constantly unfolding entropy and uncertainty of life, seeing it unfold moment by moment; and that what happens now, in this moment, influences what happens in the next moment.

If by any small chance reading this blog has inspired you to undertake a meditation and mindfulness course, but you still have doubts, my advice is to let those doubts go. Enter into the experience with an open mind and open heart and commit yourself fully. It will only be through patience, practice and perseverance that you’ll see the benefits meditation and mindfulness can bring. It might not work the same way for you as it does for others, but it will be beneficial. You don’t need to do an hour a day, you just need to start small and weave ten minutes of daily practice into your life. Make it a habit and you’ll very quickly see the benefits.

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