In 1976 when I began my addiction recovery journey, one of my first teachings was about discovering my observer mind. This discovery changed my life more than any other self-discovery tool. Before I learned how to use my mind to keep a check on my thoughts, I thought that my mind was running the show. It was because I was allowing it to be in charge. My mind was a jumbled and hectic place. In mindfulness teaching, this is called the “monkey mind”. I have since 1977 used my mind to keep a watchful eye on random thoughts. It takes four positive thoughts to root out one negative thought. So the best use of mental energy is to notice if negativity is there and to stop it instead of feeding it. Negativity has to fed by our fears in order to continue.
Wikipedia identifies mindfulness as “the practice whereby a person is intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.
In 1976, when I began implementing breathing exercise with meditation practices, I immediately knew that finding my center and focusing on my breath in and breath out enabled calm and peace to flow through my body. Being human, I learned in a moment what has taken a lifetime to implement. Transcendental meditation has been found to decrease heart rate and blood pressure because the mind-body connection prospers when one experiences peace and calm.
From Federation University in Australia: Mindfulness PDF:
“Have you ever started eating a snack bar, taken a couple of bites, then noticed all you had left was an empty packet in your hand? Or been driving somewhere and arrived at your destination only to realise you remember nothing about your journey?”
“Most people have! These are common examples of “mindlessness,” or “going on automatic pilot.” In our modern, busy lives, we constantly multi task. It is easy to lose awareness of the present moment as when we become lost in our efforts to juggle work, home, finances, and other conflicting demands.”
“As humans we are often “not present” in our own lives. We often fail to notice the good things about our lives, fail to hear what our bodies are telling us, or poison ourselves with toxic self criticism. Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future. Becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations may not sound like an obviously helpful thing to do, however learning to do this in a way that suspends judgement and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.”
“Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to, and seeing clearly whatever is happening in our lives. It will not eliminate life’s pressures, but it can help us respond to them in a calmer manner that benefits our heart, head, and body. It helps us recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional and physiological reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a scientifically researched approach to cultivating clarity, insight, and understanding. Practicing mindfulness allows us to be fully present in our life and work, and improve our quality of life.”
The following websites can help someone to experience mindfulness, mediation and peace:
1. From ThoughtBrick: “Soothing the “Monkey Mind”: A personal journey“:
“It started as an urgent need to change my life. I was troubled by stress-related health problems, hopelessness and feelings of despair encircled me on a daily basis, and I had virtually lost any semblance of perspective.
- Starting a mindfulness meditation course
“Four weeks later, following a synchronistic conversation with a friend, I started on my 8 week Mindfulness Meditation Course at Evolution in Brighton. It was as if I had just been handed a mental and emotional roadmap, a framework for recovery. I grabbed the opportunity enthusiastically but with a little trepidation.”
“I felt ready to embark on this process, following years of psychotherapy. I had exhausted trying to work things out through the prism of the egoic mind and had also come to the conclusion that the process of analysing things in this way has a tendency to become circular and unfulfilling. I was already searching for a way to approach things from a more spiritual perspective, a position of non-self judgement and observation. Mindfulness meditation enabled me to do this.”
- Observing what’s going on
“As the course progressed, one thing became startlingly clear. I realised how difficult it is to do what seems like the simplest of things, just sitting with oneself and observing whatever is happening outside, in one’s body, and on the inside. At the beginning of the process, having the normal distractions removed, my mind went into overdrive and started to create them, from mental ’list-making to physical restlessness.”
“When focusing on stillness and not actively thinking, just ‘being‘ with oneself and allowing whatever came up with detached observance, my head was suddenly filled with the squawking of the hungry ‘Monkey Mind, desperate for attention.”
- Being a passive observer
“As the weeks went on, however, I learnt to become more of the passive observer, and it became easier to separate oneself from the dramas and stories of the ego self. Acknowledging that resistance to the process is an intrinsic part of it, allowed me to be kinder to myself during it, and not give up.”
“The most important discovery I made, however, was that I could break the vicious cycle of thoughts, stressful feelings, and then physical symptoms. When before these had operated in a circular loop, the process of observing all physical sensations in the body, the ‘body scan’ as it is called, allowed me to separate out emotion from physical sensation.”
- Learning not to judge
“I learnt not to judge what was arising as ‘good’ or bad’, simply as a sensation in the body, not to create a fearful ‘story’ around it. And I was able to have some freedom from the the problems that my mind had been creating, and some inner peace, for the first time in a long while.”
“Through this meditation , I have learnt to become more mindful in my everyday life too. I have realised what I only understood on an intellectual level before starting this journey. That is, that when one is truly in the present moment, there is no space for unhappiness or fear.” (Written by Jeremy Brown)
2. From Sonima: “What to Do With Your Mind During Meditation“: (Written by Lodro Rinzler, Meditation Advisor)
“One of the common mistakes people make when beginning a meditation practice is believing that it is simply a way to turn off your mind. Your mind is a radiant, brilliant, amazing thing and there is no off switch. Meditation is not about zoning out and becoming a vegetable. You can befriend yourself in meditation, use it to transcend your usual experience, even have a powerful realization depending on what technique you are doing, but let’s be clear that your mind will remain “on.””
“Another common misconception is that thoughts are bad and we should rid ourselves of thoughts. Our mind cannot stop producing thoughts. It’s simply what it does. Often when people discover that there is no off switch in their mind and thoughts continue to come they get discouraged and think they are the worst meditator of all time. There have been thousands of years of meditators and I promise you, you are not the worst. Not by a long shot.”
“Many types of meditation are not about getting rid of thoughts but about establishing a healthier relationship to what is going on in the mind. One of my favorite words for meditation is the Tibetan term “gom,” which can be translated as “become familiar with.” In other words, meditation is a way to become more familiar with what is going on in your mind and more familiar with the types of thoughts that come up throughout your day.”
“If you engage in shamatha, peaceful-abiding meditation, the instruction is to return your attention to your breathing, over and over again. A big thought will pop up and distract you from the breath. It’s your job to gently return your focus once more to feeling the simple flow of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. If it is helpful you could even silently say “thinking” to yourself.”
“The process of labeling your thoughts as “thinking” is not to dismiss them or chase them away like you might swat away a fly: “Shoo! Don’t bother me!” The point is to acknowledge the thought. You notice that it came up, inwardly nod at it by saying “thinking” to yourself and, as if it were someone you saw passing by in the street, having acknowledged them you continue on your way, in this case by returning your attention to the breath.”
“By being extremely gentle with yourself and returning your attention, continuously, to your breathing, you prevent that hummingbird mindset I mentioned earlier. You are, perhaps for the first time all day, focusing on just one thing: the breath. Thoughts about life, fantasies, strong emotions, discursive and subtle emotions will come up. In all these cases we look at the thought, acknowledge it, and come back to the breath.”