I frequently hear people talk about mindfulness as a way to inner peace. I hear it so often I feel compelled to write a little about my sense of it as a long-term meditator and frequent teacher of mindfulness in a therapeutic context.
As a sound bite, it’s easy to perceive mindfulness = inner peace to be a one way ticket to bliss and harmony. While this might seem appealing, it is unfortunately not generally what is experienced with regular meditation and mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness is about deliberately being present, here and now, with what is arising. This includes what you are perceiving through your senses, including your interoception which you use to sense the inside of your own body.
When being mindful, we are invited to notice what is present without judgement, so not labelling it good, bad or indifferent, just being gently curious about the nature of our experience. You may notice body sensations, the rhythm of your breath, or heart. You may notice what you hear, or see. You may be aware of thoughts or of music playing in your mind. You might notice your emotions. There is a lot of information to be noticed! You may be aware of what is in the foreground of your awareness, and what is in the background, or not attended to at all. And then, moment by moment it all changes.
Heavens! This can be busy internal stuff. Constant change and motion, which can be both liberating and daunting to realise and be with. So where does the inner peace bit fit in? For me, it’s the peacefulness that can be present right in the middle of all the comings and goings, the thoughts, anxieties, emotions, discomforts, sensations etc etc. It is not an opposite or idealised land that is somehow passed over to. It’s right here, in the thick of it. This way, there is no either / or, there just is what there is. Sometimes a peacefulness is present within it, sometimes it’s less prominent.
Over time, the capacity to sit peacefully with what arises grows, more and more can be borne, and this increases the capacity to feel calm and to respond and not to reach. But, not minding if you are peaceful or not is a bit of a feat. As the acceptance of how any particular moment is grows, it can open up a capacity to enjoy and be thankful for the sense of perspective and presence when it is experienced.
True mindfulness will bring forth much that is uncomfortable, much that you might rather avoid. It’s not an easy path, and it’s not all smiley and calm. It is however a way to live deeply, to really inhabit your own life and being, to experience the richness of what it is to be you, and to be human.
Many benefits have been documented to flow from mindfulness and meditation. I sense them as practices that can enhance and uplift, and that are best approached with an open mind and a trust in your capacity to judge if now is the right time for you to develop them, for like anything else, one size doesn’t fit all, and no one approach will solve all ills.
If you would like to learn about how mindfulness may help you manage your emotional and mental well-being, get in touch.