I came across this image the other day when looking for a specific quote and it really found a way to the inside of me and, since, it has been spinning around my body and mind. Those few words are very powerful and offer, very gently, an insight into the relationship we have with the mind.
How do we relate to the inner environment?
- When is the mind an helpful, unruly and out of control master and at what times or situations does it serve us well, with gentleness, kindness and with skill?
- How does my body respond when the mind is being unhelpful?
- What sensations are present and where? (see if you can use descriptive language as opposed to analytical words)
- How do I really feel, what emotions do I experience when the minds runs away with itself and seems to have 'mind of its own'.
- How does the pattern of thinking change, what thought do I notice when the mind is unruly?
- How do I respond, act or behave when the activity of the mind feels challenging?
Training in mindful awareness can help respectfully hold the mind as servant as opposed to master.
By first NOTICING what our direct experience is (i.e. what thoughts are happening, what feelings and emotions are expressed, how this affects the body and how each of these elements influence our actions and urges) we can start the process of 'observing from the edge of the water' what is going on as opposed to feeling like we are 'swimming (or at times drowning) in a turbulent sea'.
The more we practice 'watching' our direct experiences as we simultaneously 'watch' our reactions to life's experiences, the better equipped we will be at keeping that dangerous master at bay.
And, of course, we can tap into the breath at any moment and very skilfully; to facilitate quietening the physical space needed to be with the mind, when it runs on its own agenda:
The 3 minute breathing space practice: here's how and have a go:
I invite you, perhaps, to sit quietly and see if it's possible to explore that, using some of the reflective questions below (or using your own too):
Let's see if we can invite an image of an hour glass in our mind's eye. A wide, open goblet-type upper part, a narrowed middle section and a lower goblet (got it?)
The upper goblet is the first step of the practice: BECOMING AWARE
Let's explore the upper goblet and its contents (using the same reflective questions in the introduce of this article). We are simply making an inventory of the activities of our mind, body and feeling world. What is actually going on and present at THIS moment? We approach this carefully and kindly, looking after ourselves. We are not trying to re-live painful or uncomfortable situations or change what our current experience is, so we explore this with a kindness and plain curiosity towards ourselves and what is there.
Once our stock take is complete, we move to the next part of the practice:
The narrow inner part of the hour glass: using the BREATH TO GATHER AND FOCUS OUR ATTENTION.
On purpose, with a warm intention, we choose to move our attention towards the breath, the cycle of breathing in the body. Now this can be a bit tricky to stay with, but that's OK (it really is!). If it helps and feels comfortable, then we can close our eyes and feel how the breath moves in the tummy. Perhaps noticing the sensations of breathing in, then the pause and space, then the sensations of breathing out and the next pause and space. For some people, it helps also to place a hand on the abdomen at this stage of the practice.
For a minute or so, we practice holding our attention, as best as we can, to the feeling of movement associated with the breath in the tummy. And when the mind wants to go on one of its journeys (and it will because that it what it's been doing for many years) then we gently and kindly move our mind's attention, honing in that unruly master again back to the breath. We are anchoring our self to the present moment using the breath.
Then we move to the final stage of the practice:
The upper goblet and CONSCIOUSLY EXPLANDING OUR AWARENESS:
Next, we expand the field of awareness with the breathing so as to include a sense of the body as a whole, how we are sitting, our posture and facial muscles, feet on floor.
We can imagine as if our whole body is rested and breathing just at this moment.
If there is an awareness of sensations of discomfort, tension, we can move the mind's attention towards that place and imagine that the breath could move into and around the sensations. By doing so, we are not fighting the sensations but rather 'leaning into them', befriending them.
Then return to the body at this moment, breathing and present. And with mindful awareness and choice, we can re-connect with the next unfolding moment of our experience.
Go well x