My head’s a pretty busy place – just like yours possibly, and like many of the people I know. The problem is that busy isn’t a good thing, productive is – and the two are very different, so I recently spent the morning at a mindfulness course to learn some new techniques to live ‘in the moment’ more. And I really struggled!
The room was full with all sorts of people, and there was a definite sense of calm when the ordained Buddhist nun Kelsang Lhachog walked into the room. Ahhhhh, I thought, this is going to be easy – time away from my hectic life just to switch off and relax.
I was imagining something along the lines of what happens at the end of a yoga session where you lay down, chill out and slowly drift off to sleep. Bliss…
WRONG! Whilst the morning WAS calm, and quiet, and relaxed, I battled with my head the WHOLE TIME. Contrary to what most people expect – and as I soon learned – mindfulness is not about stopping your mind thinking. It’s your mind’s job to think, so stopping it is impossible. Instead, mindfulness is about calming your mind and being able to have better control over what you let in and when you do that (not the dictionary definition – simply my take on what I learned at this course!)
So as I sat there listening, and was taken through several guided meditations, I realised my head felt like some kind of super hero trying to fend off a barrage of bullets. Except the bullets were my thoughts, and they were coming into my head from every possible direction. So when I was supposed to be thinking about my breathing, and focusing on that one single thing, instead I was thinking about…
The list went on and on, and I was getting ‘hit’ with bullets the whole time. Needless to say, the final thought about skipping class felt like I was on the path to failure! As I’m definitely not a quitter, I nipped that one in the bud pretty quickly and returned for the second half, but I was surprised to find myself thinking about leaving, and realised how the course was really challenging my thinking.
Thankfully there was a defining moment that snapped me out of the ‘I can’t do this/this is an annoying waste of time’ headspace when Kelsang said: –
“Calming your mind is like training a puppy. The first step is to learn to sit and stay. The tricks come later.”
Sit and stay.
This is all about bringing your mind back home, instead of wandering off into the future, thinking about what you’re going to do next, over-analysing, and generally keeping your head packed full and frantically busy. So just like training a puppy, calming the mind takes practice and with repetition and consistency the training gets easier and easier, until you’re able to bring your mind back home and ask it to sit and stay for as long as you want or need it to.
So now we (my head and I!) go to ‘puppy school’ every day. Sometimes ‘she’ behaves, sometimes she’s a bit unruly. But you know what, we’re getting there and I love the feeling that I’m giving my mind some new tools to manage the hectiness of life (which is all self-initiated anyway!).
I’m won’t say its easy, and I’ve got a long way to go before I really get my ‘zen’ on, but I’m definitely progressing and there are some great tools available (many of them free) to help you get into a calmer headspace too. So if you haven’t yet, dip your toe in and give mindfulness a shot – there’s nothing to lose, and a whole world of calmness to gain. Ahhhhh……
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