Leaving my family for the evening to spend some time on my self-development has become a ritual that I enjoy every week now. I’m looking forward to this week’s class and hopefully I can build on my experience from last week if only to confirm that I’m heading in the right direction. There are a few people missing tonight and while circumstances can change and it’s unlikely for us all to be here every week, I feel genuinely bad for those that can’t attend. Although we get handouts and an email every week, the course itself is experiential and there really is nothing like doing a practise for the first time with the group. I’ve realised now how insightful it is to listen to each other’s views no matter how similar or different they are. It’s all building upon my knowledge and awareness into something bigger.
We begin the evening with the Loving Kindness practise. During this exercise last week, I played it safe and thought about my son. This week, I decide to challenge myself a little by thinking of someone that I have a bit of conflict happening with. This person is not a family member or friend but is someone that I need to liaise with at work regularly. I feel like this lady is quite manipulative and it feels like she goes out of her way to make things difficult for me. I’ve even hoped that she would move to a different job so that I don’t need to deal with her. I’m in a reasonably good mood tonight so I think it would be a good time to try to see this person in a more positive light. I focus on breathing and picture her in my mind. Immediately, I think of something she did recently which really annoyed me. I push the thought away and decide to just think of her as a human being. I try to think of the reasons that she is so hostile sometimes. Maybe she is under pressure at work to prove herself. Maybe she wants to be liked and feels she has to undermine other people to feel important. Maybe she has personal problems with her family or friends.
Suddenly, I see that the possibilities are endless. By feeling so negative towards her and the situations that she has put me in, I haven’t appreciated that there may be underlying reasons for her behaviour. Instead of feeling resentful towards her, I feel a bit more compassionate and able to see things from her perspective. I decide to take positive action this week and go out of my way to be extra helpful and nice to her. I’m glad I decided to choose this person tonight and am hopeful that I can work towards a more harmonious relationship with her. The group discussion that follows, shows that most of us have chosen someone that’s a bit tougher to deal with. We agree that it will take time and practice to build up our compassion for others especially where we have ongoing issues.
Next, we return to Observing the Undercurrent which was a practise that was introduced last week. I’ve been working on this one at home to increase my understanding and confidence. After an initial practice, Julie takes some time to explain that not only can we observe the undercurrent but also our attitude to it. As well as acknowledging the thoughts we are having and being aware enough to not get too involved with them, we should also note the attitude or preference with which we are observing. This would look something like “I really don’t like thinking about that” or “It feels good to think about that”.
This confirms how I was feeling last week when I was feeling a bit resentful towards someone. I acknowledged that it felt good to hold some negative feelings before I was able to let them go. Even though the act of letting go doesn’t feel particularly good at the time, holding on to such thoughts can be destructive and leads to anger, self-pity and further resentment.
Julie tells us that our attitude is very important as it is connected with how we react to situations. We must try our best to acknowledge how we are feeling when times are tough and to ‘know what is happening, while it is happening, without preference’. We should try our best to bring our awareness back to our body which helps us to stay in the moment. In times when we feel like we are backed against the wall, being able to take control of our own thoughts and feelings means we then have choices we can make to give us some clarity before we take action.
I continue to practise at home and feel like I have a much better understanding of what I’m doing. I’ve definitely been overthinking how mindfulness is supposed to work and although it’s tricky to explain, it’s actually quite simple. I like to think of my thoughts like an immature child and my awareness is like the parent that takes them by the hand and tells them everything will be ok without encouraging any bad behaviour.
Maybe it’s a coincidence but I’ve also been examining my busy lifestyle and making changes recently. One of the most stressful things during the week for me is picking up my son from school and rushing home to do homework and dinner before rushing back out to after school clubs. I was also taking him to early morning karate on a Saturday and swimming on a Sunday evening. This was making me feel like we never had any quality time together and every night was spent with me nagging at him to hurry up with whatever he was doing. Although it seems obvious now, I had a realisation a couple of weeks ago that this time-sucking merry-go-round was not doing any of us any favours. I have since reorganised swimming to a more convenient time during the week and cancelled most of the other clubs. I’m enjoying spending more time with my son where he can just be himself and I can be a happy mum again. We are definitely ‘living in the moment’ and it’s much more fun this way.