What happens when you stop to be still and do nothing?
Do nothing but be present with yourself? This is mindful meditation. You step into silence and stillness. Yet how easy it is to avoid the present moment. It’s not long before you feel out of your comfort zone! With no distractions, your mind starts to create them. The planning, conversations, your inner critic, random thoughts, impatience. Your thinking is a means of escape. Escape from the present moment.
Our primitive brains
In your day to day life, you experience feelings you don’t like. It’s not always possible to avoid them. When negative feelings arise, you might feel like running away or quashing them angrily. Both these strategies are a direct result of our primitive brains. This means that we’re in ‘fight-flight’ mode. You don’t like the feeling – you quit or give up. You avoid it or withdraw from the whole situation.
Think about a social situation you may not enjoy. Many people don’t like small talk and social gatherings with strangers. Some people thrive on this. But many of us don’t. So we end up avoiding the situation altogether. Because we don’t like the feelings that we experience at these events. Gradually, if we keep avoiding certain situations, we can pretend those feelings no longer exist. But we’re only avoiding them, not facing them.
Can you think of other situations in your life that you opt out of? You do this because you don’t like the feelings they evoke. Sometimes we even forget why we avoided them in the first place.
When you meditate
When you learn to meditate it’s common to experience uncomfortable feelings. Feelings you don’t like. You want to avoid them and it feels easier to avoid the present moment. It’s more comfortable to get back to old ways of distraction. (Keep busy, have a drink, shop, eat – your choice!)
Meditation can often feel like a gateway directly into discomfort! It’s easy to decide that you don’t want to experience negative thoughts in quite such an open and honest way. There’s no hiding from them!
What would it be like to learn how to be present and not rush away from your experience? We are creatures of habit, so when we first learn how to meditate, it can be a challenge. The brain is happy to divert back to tried and tested means of behaviour. But when you stay with things exactly as they are, you are teaching yourself to re-wire the neurons of your brain. With meditation, the skill is to stay for longer with any given experience – whether it’s happy, neutral or not so enjoyable.
You become aware of how you resist it. You look for ways to distract from the thoughts. Yet the strangest thing can happen. The thought or emotion that at first felt so awful, softens and dissipates. It doesn’t maintain its full weight of force. An emotion only lasts up to 90 seconds. After that, you have to keep feeding it with your own thoughts to keep it alive.
Daily meditation to get more familiar with the present moment
This is why meditation is a daily practice. Because without it, the brain returns to old familiar ways. Without this awareness of the present moment, we spend a lot of time reacting with our primitive brains. Again and again!
Start with small moments of being present. Start with 5 minutes of mindful meditation every morning. When you increase this amount of time that’s when it can become challenging and rewarding.
With meditation it takes courage to face your feelings. Particularly if they’re uncomfortable. But be gentle and accepting of yourself. Go for it – be present! The alternative is to spend a lifetime running away.
Read: ‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle
Yvette Jane – Learn to be present and mindful with Place of Serenity