Mindfulness is very popular nowadays and I’ve been practising mindfulness meditation for almost five years now. At first, I didn’t really think it was helping in any way. I was just sitting down and at the best, managing to focus a bit on my breathing or for very brief instants to be in the present moment. Over the years I have deepened my practice of mindfulness and meditation, slowly improving the techniques, so to speak.
It’s only by starting to do some somatic work with the Grinberg method that I’ve finally started to really understand what mindfulness is really all about. It is very interesting because at the same time, I am finally managing to get my head around “the power of now” by Eckhart Tolle, that I’ve been trying to read for many years. It seems I wasn’t ready…but somehow, now is the right time and I’m understanding it all at a whole new different level.
Eckhart Tolle doesn’t claim that his work is mindfulness, as he doesn’t like the word “mind-full”. His work is all about emptying the mind, so it does make sense linguistically. However, I find the two very similar. On one hand, mindfulness suggests to be fully present with our immediate environment, to accept what is and come out of our busy minds to be fully in the moment, instead of consistently doing. And Eckhart Tolle invites us to be fully present and out of our minds as well, in order to dis-identify from our ego. Again, being instead of doing.
Our society encourages us to mainly be in the “doing”. Working, achieving, having goals, accumulating wealth, etc. There’s a strong movement behind all those actions, and they all seem to give us a sense of achievement and self-worth. If we’re not doing anything, we’re wasting our time. We’re under achieving. And we feel worthless most of the time. At least against society’s standards and expectations.
Being on another hand, has got a complete different energy. It allows us to reconnect with ourselves, to actually remember who we are. It is becoming increasingly easy in our world to lose track of who we are deep down. There are so many appealing and attractive distractions in the form of technology, social media, entertainment etc. that we seldomly have time to stop and connect with ourselves. Mind you, we don’t really need to! We are being told everywhere from everyone who we are supposed to be. What we are supposed to think, what we are supposed to like, to want or to look like. In the end, it is easy to become an automat and just follow the influence we’re under! it’s probably easier than to think by ourselves…
But often comes a sense of dissatisfaction out of it. A deep uneasiness, a sense of emptiness and void. Because even if we simply follow the guidelines the media and society provide for us, deep down we know we are lacking something. A strong sense of who we are, and what we’re here for. I believe that’s why there is such a strong emergence of spiritual practice and meditation. Out of an over-stimulating and over-providing society, is born a need for a deeper connection with our deeper self – before we totally lose ourselves.
But that’s not necessarily easy…I’ve seen in a lot of clients, how stopping the “doing” could trigger deep anxieties. Being alone with ourselves, in silence, without any noise or images to distract us, can be quite scary as we might end up facing our deep “stuff”…
I really enjoy that spiritual practice, as I’m learning gradually to recognise I don’t have to be controlled by my thoughts nor my emotions. Being fully present I find, helps with taking some distance with what I’m thinking and what I’m feeling, and recognise that it is not defining me as a person. It’s more as an expression of myself (my ego rather) at a moment in time. Mindfulness suggests that we are not our thoughts nor our emotions. And there is something very liberating in taking that approach, as we don’t have to actually act on those thoughts or emotions. And that’s where I’ve found the somatic work very useful. Because one of the most difficult thing I’ve found is being in the midst of intense emotions, whether anger, fear or sadness, and remember at that moment to not identify with it… Easier said than done.
The somatic work – once more, very similar to meditation – taught me to first focus on the emotion in my body, rather than analyse it in my mind or focusing on the thoughts it is producing. And then, breathe through the emotion instead of fighting it ; to give space in my body to welcome the painful emotion, and be with it, simply be with it.
David R. Hawkins also talks about surrendering to the emotion in his book “letting go” and it seems that all those approaches lead to the same thing: acceptance. I’ve found a lot of solace in practicing this combination of techniques. However I’m also learning that the mind – or the ego, call it whatever you like – is very gifted at playing tricks. The mind likes to be in control, it likes to have certainty and direction. So when you decide to surrender to a painful emotion, it is bound to freak out as it actually sees the threat of losing control. I don’t know about you but I’m slightly on the edge of being a control freak and the idea of allowing pain or anger to overcome me without even knowing what was going to happen next used to terrify me!
I’ve been practising surrendering control for a few years, as I describe in my book “healing anxiety with NLP and Hypnotherapy“, but habits die hard. When I am facing hardship, I turn to meditation for support and for staying as grounded as possible, but I experienced something rather interesting recently.
I took a rather long Xmas break during which I practiced intensive meditation – a kind of self-retreat. I managed to reach a deep state of Being during a few of those sessions, and learnt to fully surrender and let go. This is an amazing feeling, a state of being that I could compare to what it would feel like to be back to only being a Soul and be free from the pain of being human. Where life and its hurdles don’t really exist anymore and have no substance. Inner peace, in a nutshell. So back to real life and its set of challenges, I was determined to maintain that state through meditation. But what I’ve discovered, is that my ego and its need of control is back. And where I’m practising with the intention of letting go, I’ve been struggling and feeling stressed and ungrounded instead of reaching inner peace. And I’ve just discovered it’s because I wasn’t letting go at all anymore! My mind was saying during all my meditation sessions “come on, time to meditate, so now, let’s achieve inner peace ; come on, focus, you’ve got inner peace to find! work harder, let go, come on, let go harder, it’s not working!” that bloody control freak again. It’s fascinating how clever our mind can be.
Because I think I’ve just experienced the difference between repression and deep surrendering. When feeling stressed or angry, my mind was just blocking the thoughts or refusing to engage in the story in a proper CBT fashion. And I believed I was staying present and grounded. But it was a smokescreen, it was an illusion. I was still trying to be in control of what I felt and thought. Instead, I’m now learning to genuinely letting go. To sit back, and fully surrender to what is. Without any agenda, without any desire or goal in mind. And to allow myself to be right where I’m at. Even if my mind doesn’t like it, or even if my inner critic feels it’s not good enough (and it speaks quite loudly!), I allow it. And then, I begin to find peace. And I begin to lose fear, or anger, or pain. It’s a rare moment of eternity where it feels like I exist independently of life. Just by myself. It feels like I’m in touch with my higher self, or something that deep down feels like the best part of myself. It feels like it’s the most mature and grounded part of me, the calmest and most confident. And when I’m in that state, I’m not scared, I’m not angry, I’m not in pain. I’m just in Peace.
And you know what’s interesting? When I’m in that state, I don’t need CBT anymore to question my stories as I described last week. Because the inner Peace washes through the actual need to make the story in the first place. Which leaves me with another question…what is the core need behind our ego to make those stories? I think I’m starting to feel an answer…will keep you posted…!