IN THE SALT MINES
Here is a story one of my students just shared yesterday morning:
She is in her eighth week of the Introductory Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program. In brief, she came to the program despairing about a massive months-long fear of having damaged her brain with a medication. All her energy was invested in trying to get rid of the anxiety and the obsessive ruminations that accompany it. The energy she used to fight her plight became so all-consuming that she barely managed to get through the day and in a robot-like fashion move her children through their daily routines.
Things became really terrifying when I taught the mindful technique of inviting the pain into full embrace, turning towards it instead of away from it, and welcoming it into full acceptance and awareness instead of trying to get rid of it. It seemed like she was taught to invite the devil for tea into her kitchen, instead of trying to destroy it (which had never worked anyway!). I reassured her that this was indeed exactly what she was asked to do - learning to do the unimaginable, and invite what seems most unacceptable about herself to reconnect with her whole being. As is often predictable, her engagement in mindfulness training seemed to make things worse - yes folks, it is stressful to take the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program!
This meditation she was learning, called 'allowing and letting be', went totally against her grain. At first she could not handle it. But with the patient support of the group process she began to find the courage to soften towards what seemed to be evil, this awful fear of being destroyed, not realizing at first that she was learning to rewire the neurocircuitry responsible for developing a deeper relationship to herself.
Suddenly, after seven to eight weeks, she discovered something remarkable: She began to be able to allow the energy of this monster to fully wash through her with far less resistance, holding the process in awareness as it unfolded. A deep, although still subtle sense of relief started to set in as she felt more open, present and available while this anxious energy flowed more freely through her with diminished resistance. She started to feel less afraid of facing her shadow, allowing it to reveal to her what she had ignored for years. Paradoxically, our most feared pain and suffering carries the key to our healing and liberation.
Most intriguingly to her, she began despite her anxiety to be more present with her children, actually engaging them and asking them about their day instead of just pushing them through their routines. Relating to their soul became more important than getting them through routines. We now know of course, that the same neurocircuitry responsible for our relationship to ourselves is also responsible for our relationships with others. By engaging in her own meditation practice, she not only deepens her relationship with herself, but also her relationships to others.
What is most exciting is the fact that she has actually begun to shape the wiring of her children's brain towards reflection, relationships and resilience, the three RRRs of future mental and physical health and wellbeing, instead of continuing on the destructive path of autopilot living causing disharmony and dis-ease. By engaging in her practice of mindfulness, deliberately creating an awareness gap between her impulses and actions, she is not only healing herself, but also healing her children and her family, as she is engaging in an act of immense personal and sociopolitical importance!
This is mindfulness at its best, mindfulness in action - the invaluable journey of awareness. She has a long way to go, and yet, she has managed to make a phenomenal shift in consciousness, which now requires cultivation.
The trick from now on: Make mindfulness your life-long way of life! We will all accompany you on this journey!
With kind regards,