Mindfulness with Sitara Morgenster

Tag: regular practice

What am I doing?

Every now and again, I like to ask myself what I’m doing when I propose to myself to be practising mindfulness meditation. Give myself a little refresher. Go back to basics. It always helps me to look up Jon Kabat Zinn’s description: ‘Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.’ Okay, so I’m sitting down because I decide that’s what I want or need (“on purpose”), and relaxing (“non-judgmentally”) with reality as it is (“the present moment”). This means I accept things as they are, or at least that it is my intention to accept things as they are. I don’t try to feel any particular way. I don’t try to change anything. I don’t try to ‘get anywhere’. I shut up and feel, I open myself up to what I perceive about “what is”. I allow all emotions and sensations. My breath is my anchor. Once I’m well established in following my breathing (and this can take a moment, a day, weeks or months, depending on how much I practise), I trust that I have the wherewithal to look at all feelings: the ones that are difficult or painful or taboo, the ones I’ve been avoiding, suppressing or exaggerating, the ones I have been reacting from or tried to fix. To the degree I can do this is the degree I will also be able to feel joy, pleasure, ecstasy, lightness, bliss, happiness. And then I can open up to wider awareness. It’s not all as linear as I’ve just described; that’s just the easiest way to describe it. In reality it is more up and down, and more fluid.
The reason I sit down and close my eyes (or fix my gaze on a neutral spot) to do this on a daily basis, is to train myself to be able to do this (in the long term) at any moment, in any situation. An athlete trains every day so that when it’s time to compete in the Olympics, she’s as prepared as she can be and at the top of her game.

The space between reaction and action

One of the positive side effects of mindfulness meditation practice I’m enjoying is my increased “response time”, the widened pause between a feeling/reaction and subsequent action (including replying to someone, or doing something, or making a decision). It allows me moment-to-moment time to rest in whatever sensations/emotions/thoughts arise in mind and body – due to interactions with other people or circumstances I’ve found myself in, or as a result of thinking patterns. And it  feels comfortable to do so, even though the feeling-sensations flooding through me may not necessarily be that great. It diffuses the internal or external pressures to respond, say something, do something, now!

I want to emphasize that I said “side effect” of mindfulness practice, because it is not something you need to try or strive for to make it happen. It will occur automatically with regular formal practice. Bonus! It’s a manifestation in real time of what Victor E. Frankl meant when he said:

This space can feel like silence or calm, or simply a moment extra to spare before jumping to conclusions or into action. A space for clarity. A space to rest in and relax. And that, my friend, is good for body, mind, others and the world around you.

When excuses get in the way of a regular mindfulness/meditation practice

How deeply, madly, truly do you want this mindfulness meditation thing to take a hold in your life?

Some days I come up with the most marvellous excuses to not practise mindfulness/meditation. They are brilliant! They’re so brilliant, they don’t even sound like an excuse. They sound plausible, logical, reasonable. And, if left un-inspected, I totally fall for them – my own, blimmin’ excuses completely beguile, mesmerise and convince me.

It’s much easier to hear an excuse for what it really is (a cop-out) when another person utters one. Like last night, during my class. A lovely human-being with the best of intentions, who’s forked out over a hundred dollars to come to a course, four weeknights in a row.

“I didn’t get a chance this week, I had family staying.”

Who is going to give you the chance, if not you?

This even sounds honest, doesn’t it? And completely understandable. And it’s totally okay.

I’m not broaching this subject to make anyone feel stink or to show I’m any better, because I’m not. I bring it up because it is so fascinating!

Here we are, claiming to want to learn this modality to somehow feel better in ourselves or cope with life without too many crutches, or awful drugs that only muck up our brains further, or to get back to that innocence and wonder that we once knew and is still there, somehow buried.

Here we are, spending considerable money and time to do a course, and then we don’t practice! We might even say it doesn’t work and ask for our money back. I often think we actually have two minds; one that knows what’s best for us and one that doesn’t. And the latter seems to be the ruler, until something dethrones it and puts it in its rightful place.

Excuses excuses, we all go there, and I don’t even think it’s fair to expect this will ever change or is somehow a sign of my weakness, or even a bad thing. It’s simply the force of lifelong habit training with productivity in mind, pulling at my sleeve: the enthusiastically encouraged quick fix to feel good with the least resistance; a societal demand to first and foremost be available to the outside world, as opposed to a grounded sense that it is I and I alone who decides where I put my attention.

But I do think it is fair to query myself regarding my response to these ingrained old patterns once they have come into my awareness. Notice it. Face it. Look it in the eye. Stare it out. Have a dialogue with it. Challenge it. Pester it.

A mindfulness/meditation practice (however small or fumbling at the start) that is allowed to take root in your life, will open a door to befriending the parts of yourself that lie dormant, hidden, suppressed – maybe-. The parts of yourself that are unexplored, ready to be discovered, awesome – definitely.

Ask: You didn’t get a chance? Who is going to give you the chance, if not you?
Again, let’s not be harsh on anyone or down on ourselves. It’s just that I often think this area of intention and commitment to putting some time and effort into learning this precious new tool is possibly “the thing” to be first and foremost become more aware off when considering taking up a mindfulness/meditation practice.

Did you check Facebook, watch TV, brush your teeth?
Perhaps, if you didn’t get a chance to any of those activities, you might still convince me.
All those other things with which you filled your day, were they really more important? Why?

Perhaps it is good to first of all, “aware in this present moment, without judgment” realise you’re not that interested in mindfulness/mediation after all. And that’s okay, too.

It could well be that you’re still not desperate enough. That’s okay too. But why pretend to ourselves that “we didn’t get a chance”, “we had a really crazy week”, “were away”, “had friends come over”, “got the flu”, and on and on?

Pretending creates yet more tension in our body and mind, even if the effects of it might immediately make themselves known. Pretending (particularly to yourself) also has the unfortunate side effect of closing the door on any further contemplation to see what I’m really “up to”, or what’s really important for us right now, or what might be helpful to assist our lives.

It also closes the door on contemplating what it will be like to wait when we might be desperate enough. When sickness or tragedy strike? When anxiety grabs us by the balls (or throat)? When our other deflection-mechanisms are no longer available to us?
On death’s doorstep?

Self-care is something we have to prioritise in good times so that when things do get challenging it’s easier to go back to it because we’ve made it a habit

Consider though for a moment, without getting all anxious about the possible horror scenarios in which the practice is not going to be available to you, to what comedian, author and activist Francesca Ramsey recently said in an interview: “Self-care is something we have to prioritise in good times so that when things do get challenging it’s easier to go back to it because we’ve made it a habit”. And mindfulness/mediation is a form of essential self-care with an immediate ripple effect in our wider circles.

I didn’t have the chance? For an entire week? Seven days, more than 10,000 minutes (of which we only sleep through, on average, about 3000 minutes).
All that time and you couldn’t find 12 minutes – or even five?
One?
Not even during one day of the week?
Not even during a stolen moment somewhere anywhere during the day?
Not even despite the fact you didn’t feel like it?

Don’t feel like it but do it anyway. See what happens.

A mindfulness/meditation practice (however small or fumbling at the start) that is allowed to take root in your life, will open a door to befriending the parts of yourself that lie dormant, hidden, suppressed – maybe-. The parts of yourself that are unexplored, ready to be discovered, awesome – definitely.

Full of information and knowledge for you and your own life. The kind of information Google will never be able to give you, no outer authority will ever be able to touch. And a few stolen moments from this crazy demanding world with its magnetic force and charismatic distractions is all you need to slowly move towards the one you are, to gain greater clarity of mind, feet on the ground, lungs filled with life-giving breath. Deeply, madly, truly.

To be still and listen, outside of the shouting crowd that’s made it into our thoughts, a date with infinity and source, is an opportunity not to be missed.

Find out what could help you go there, and let me know.

Sitara Morgenster

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