In this week's blog I wanted to share with you my personal experience of how mindfulness supported me in transforming an experience of shame.
Simply put, mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of one’s inner experience…
The first step on the journey of mindfulness―is noticing.
And so was the case for me a couple of days ago, when my toddler experienced a mini meltdown in a shopping center’s elevator.
His older brother was away from home at the time, visiting an aunt in Canberra, so baby J.P. felt the change of routine and was particularly unsettled.
A woman walked into the elevator and (initially) I experienced a fleeting moment of shame, as if I needed to explain the situation to her.
I paid attention to my experience.
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” Jon Kabat-Zinn
Paying non-judgmental attention to our inner experience can be a challenging first step.
An all too common barrier to noticing and transforming our inner experience is excessive criticism. In general, Western society puts more value on positive emotions over negative ones, with negative emotions being associated with something being "wrong," adding to their stigma.
Excessive criticism can get in our way of reflecting and processing an experience, then integrating it into our awareness as a learning and letting it go...
Women have also traditionally been conditioned to attend to others' needs over their own and their personal development has historically been not been as encouraged (as men's)―so this simple first step may not be so simple after all!
“Awareness is not the same as thinking. It is a complementary form of intelligence, a way of knowing that is at least as wonderful and as powerful, if not more so, than thinking.”
Noticing emotion is the crux of my counselling work, so I appreciate the way emotions pop into our awareness to shine light on: past emotional patterns; our needs; how we learned to look at the world, other people, and ourselves; or on where we focus...
I recognized my experience as an old emotional pattern from the past. A familiar hint of people pleasing remnants. I let it be... like an old resource that once served me.
I was able to observe it with curiosity. Another one of Jon Kabat-Zin's beautiful metaphors for awareness is likening it to viewing a waterfall:
“... In cultivating mindfulness we are going beyond or behind our thinking, much the way you might find a vantagepoint in a cave or depression in a rock behind a waterfall. We still see and hear the water, but we are out of the torrent.”
A helpful prerequisite for observing and noticing our inner experience is a calm mind.
According to Jon Kabat-Zin, a calm mind is like a mirror that can reflect your thoughts and feelings.
I can recall other times when I felt more anxious around my little one having a melt down, too enmeshed with my thoughts and feelings, when a mindful awareness was just not happening...
I often recommend being aware of one's levels of calm, and should you find yourself in a zone of overwhelm, prioritize taking down your arousal by a notch.
A calm mind is a result of appreciating that your feelings are there to serve and support you, and grounding yourself in acceptance, in something beyond what you are experiencing: in your being, your awareness, your spiritual identity as a unique expression of life.
It is from such a place of awareness that I experienced another helpful thought, "YOU DON'T HAVE TO THINK THIS"...
Just like one of my favorite quotes by Byron Katie: “I didn’t let go of my stressful thoughts. I questioned them, and then they let go of me.”
The moment I was aware of my emotional past pattern without judgement I felt as if it left me, and there was only my being feeling grounded in my being and connected to other's "life force" (expression used by Virginia Satir).
That's the beauty of the present moment. It reveals for us whatever we need for our continual growth, deepens our awareness, our attitude of compassion and non judgement, helping us to radiate these to the world―sending our ripples of connection, acceptance, and peace.
Leaving you now with another powerful quote by Jon Kabat-Zin about the beauty of the present moment...
“The future that we want - this is it. This is the future of all the previous thoughts you've ever had about the future. You're in it. You're already in it. What is the purpose of all this living if it's only to get some place else and then when you're there you're not happy anyway, you want to be some place else. It's always for 'when I retire,' 'when I graduate college,' 'when I make enough money,' 'when I get married,' 'when I get divorced,' 'when the kids move out.' It's like, wait a minute, this is it. This is your life. We only have moments. This moment's as good as any other. It's perfect.” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn