Well, I can happily report back from the trenches of everyday suburban life that, yes, indeed, mindfulness seems to be working!
You'd think a life coach with a website called A Life in Awareness and who "specializes" in mindfulness would have figured this out by now. And that it wouldn't have taken me over 15 posts to crack the code (and more courses, books, and webinars than I care to admit).
But then, I'm probably one of the most mental people I know (some of my dearest and nearest would say: "in several ways!"). It's a pretty hectic production of thoughts up there - well, maybe we all produce thoughts at the rate of knots but I actually pay attention to them. I've always been very polite, you see.
Which is how I came to mindfulness. I couldn't stand my thinking anymore. You have probably heard the term "monkey mind" - a visually compelling (and fun) way to explain how thinking works. A thought comes into your awareness - that's a branch in our monkey's jungle. And then another one, so the monkey jumps to that one. And then another one, and then another one, and then.... you get the drift. By the time the monkey takes a pause, it's probably covered miles of jungle without actually getting anywhere. I had a monkey mind on crack - hyperactive, boisterous, on super power energy, and an arrogance to match any super hero. It never stopped, never flailed, never took a freaking break to eat a banana!!
A lot of things happened in my jungle. I won't go into the details of some of the creatures I came across - some pretty hairy scary monsters. But along came a baby, a human baby (my son, to be precise) and the monkey went into overdrive - I didn't think it was possible but this monkey mind was on an all time high. It had found a drug called anxiety and it was jumping around, flying all over the place, not paying enough attention to what was happening in the now, constantly grasping for the next branch. Making the rest of me exhausted and unable to keep up. I wanted to have a lobotomy.
Fast forward 7 years (lucky 7!), and I find myself less anxious, less reactive, less judgmental of others, less critical of myself, less controlling, less annoyed, less resistant. I say less because it can never be zero - we are humans, constantly bobbing up and down in a sea of spectrums. Range is where we live. Balance is an eternally moving target. Also, don't get me wrong, I'm still a far (and high-pitched cry) from being enlightened in any way (except to know I know less and less with each passing day!). I'm generally more chilled, I can't quite see myself as totally "happy go lucky". I'm still too bossy for that.
But what has changed? Why can I deal a bit better with life not serving me what I want on a silver plate? One word: space.
No. Not outer space. This isn't some other-worldly, mystical place. It's inner space, in fact. I can sit with what is a lot better these days because I feel there is more space inside me. And in that space there is silence. Not total silence. But little bubbles of silence. And they keeping coming up from some deep well within. The more you pay attention to them, these jewels of silence and awareness, the more they appear. It's as easy as that.
Of course, it takes practice. Everything in life does (except breathing. Think breathing - think silence!). In some ways what I'm trying to say is that we are only required to take the first few steps, then we sort of walk by default. So set aside a few minutes of awareness practice in your day and be regular with it (no, it doesn't have to be meditation; anything that allows you to see your thoughts and not become identified with them works - try dancing, try colouring, try singing, try yoga, try running). The bubbles will start showing up. You will flow through life more, resist less.
And how do we know? Since the mind is going to make such a lot of noise on this ("it's not working", "you're wasting your time", "I'll never be able to change", "I can't focus on this right now", "I've got to do other stuff!!" etc), let me illustrate with a titbit from my life.
For the last 3 weeks I've had a biggie on my plate - my first ever paid online course on mindful parenting, written and illustrated by yours truly. Instead of writing the whole thing months before and spending weeks tinkering with it, I went ahead and wrote most of it as I went along. That would have normally sent me into paroxysms of stress. To test my mindfulness standing even further, life threw me a few curve balls: 2 weeks of no childcare, several guests staying over, too many social plans over the weekends, last minute changes of schedules, and a heavier workload than usual. Some of these were totally my choice by the way, truth be told. But not only did I complete the course fine, I actually enjoyed writing daily and.... I even managed to be a fairly mindful mother to my own son in the process! Tantrums, both his and mine, were few and far in between. And I felt an unshakable calm throughout (even when I lost my calm - doyaknowwhatImean??). I knew (from someplace deep within, not my mind) that whatever happened, I was going to be just fine.
Was I tired and cranky sometimes? Yes. Did I snap and nag at my husband? Yes. Could I have made better decisions ahead of this crunch time? Definitely. Could the course content be better? Absolutely. Am I bothered about any of this? Nah.
Life is not a problem. Our attitude to it is. So be silent and see what it does for you (and let me know below!).