Setting the Stage for Mindfulness in Your Life
“The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.”
We all continually hit milestones. Humans love milestones! And time continues to march on, but where we find ourselves tomorrow, next week, or 20 years from now, all starts with the moment we are currently living in. Watching my husband these past 18 years is proof to me that what you live, and believe, you become, and I am very very proud of him and how he chooses to bring awareness, to how he lives his life, each and every moment, of each and every day.
In my article, Setting the Stage for Embodiment, about the structure of mindfulness from the perspective of embodiment, I eluded to a trilogy on the subject. I am breaking the idea of body, mind, and spirit, into a three-part series, because I feel each is worthy of its own structure. This is the second installment of these ideas.
Again, this is about the practice of staying centered, within the sometimes chaotic, and sometimes mundane, day-to-day, where we can find the brilliance of who we are and thus, who we are becoming. It is also where we can see what our life is and thus see the reality of what we are manifesting.
I also want to reiterate that I believe there is no real separation of the mind, body, and spirit, yet in this work, I do acknowledge that before we can experience the magical symmetry of the three as one, it is useful to pan out and break them apart, understanding the unique perspective and voice of each individually.
As I begin here, I immediately run into resistance, because I know that the mind has a multitude of definitions, and each of us may imagine different parts of ourselves when we contemplate what is our mind. I hope you can play along as I put my inner critic at ease, when I suggest, for the sake of this very non-scientific letter, that we define the mind as that part of us that we observe and experience as thinking.
Let’s begin, I mentioned in the earlier installment that during the late 1900s, the law of attraction had many of us preoccupied with manifesting, which, in turn, had us wanting to control our minds (thoughts) so that we could accumulate the life we were wanting to live. I am sure that anybody who has studied or practiced this manifestation technique, can tell you there is something to it, and yes, things on vision boards do appear in our lives, if not sometimes sporadically, they do appear. So, I agree wholeheartedly, that our minds do play a large role in what our life becomes, yet I also believe it is much more than controlling our minds (thoughts) that is determining our reality. Our beliefs, our understanding of where our thoughts come from, and what they are asking of us, I found to be a missing aspect of those teachings.
Our beliefs, both known and hiding within the subconscious, are running 90+% of our experience. The mind’s sometimes aggressive role is to keep us attached to those beliefs through our thoughts. This is not out of maliciousness, or because what we believe is always true, there is a myriad of reasonings, but the bottom line for me and what I like to practice, is giving my mind the benefit of the doubt and knowing that my mind is always attempting to keep me safe. I also recognize that my mind can be wrong sometimes and that its attempt to keep me safe, can come with a price, I am no longer willing to pay. I also understand that my mind can be utterly misaligned with who I want to be, and therefore who I am becoming.
As we move further into this, let’s remember, that we have learned since the day of Descartes that we are in fact not our thoughts. I believe our thoughts allow us to know who or where we are, through resonance or dissonance to them. The key is, to be aware of them, and not attached to, nor identify with them. Much like a sensation in the body, our thoughts are somewhat of a harbinger, showing us our current state. A thought could be considered as information from our conscious, from our subconscious, and from consciousness itself. In fact, inspired thought often comes in the form of an idea or solution, but if our mind is full of other thoughts will we hear it?
Something else to understand is how many of us, attempt to disconnect from the mind (our thoughts) for many of the same reasons that we choose to disembody. Reasons like trauma, illness, dis-ease, pain, and even spiritual seeking. To this end, we have a plethora of distractions at our disposal: shopping, drugs, alcohol, and many many more. We also have distractions in the form of things that seem “healthy” like exercise, work, and even meditation, or spiritual practices, that we have taken to an extreme in order to quiet the mind. I like to think of distractions, and addictions, as neutral and to remember that it is I who take these benign activities and substances and consume them to a degree of dis-ease, in an attempt to quiet the mind, body, or spirit.
So what is really happening, while I am online for 3 hours, shopping for the perfect mop? well, what I imagine is taking place is that the thoughts that I am wanting to quell, with this distraction, are running in the background, like a computer virus, gaining steam waiting for any quietude to show me where I am, what my state is. A message I am not yet willing to hear or know, therefore my obsession with buying something that will solve a very immediate concern like a dirty floor.
Let us not shoot the messenger! Whether it be the mind’s thoughts or the body’s sensations, that have a message for us, let’s pause with breath and willingness, take note of the messenger, listen to them, and discern what is true for us in this exact moment. Let all of our thoughts know that we are engaged and listening and that they can slow their role and stop jockeying for positions, for fear of not being heard.
What I propose is, that we gently entertain the idea that our mind is not the enemy, and certainly not something to control, but a beautiful magical part of our journey that we want to cultivate, tend to and yes, bring discipline to. Have you ever pleadingly told a thought to go away at 2:00 am? How did that work out? Have you ever told the thought that you are sleeping now and that you promise to pick that thought back up, first thing in the morning? Try it, it works wonders!! We do not hand our thoughts the reins, but we do invite it along, perhaps thinking of the mind as the horses powering our journey with wild abandon, never tiring, and always, with discipline, ready to inspire and motivate.
I also suggest that we invite our thoughts in with keen awareness, curiosity, and discernment. We can learn to discern what we will give attention to and what we will ask to dissolve as the light of truth hits the thoughts form. I also suggest that we practice being kind to ourselves and that we care for our mind like the precious intelligence that it is.
This will invite mindfulness to the table, giving us an opportunity to experience the thoughts and ideas it avails us, integrating all aspects of ourselves, allowing an abiding calm to center us and carry us home.
“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Setting the Mind’s Stage for Mindfulness
1. Sleep and Rest — You may recognize this from the embodiment letter, and yes, it is the same because I feel it is so important and rare to have a mindful sleep practice, that it deserves to be mentioned again. Therefore the number 1 structure (and often the last one we address and the first one we give up) for living mindfully is a sleep strategy, or if you prefer a sleep discipline. Whether it is our mind, body, or spirit, that we are discussing, without the proper rest and deep sleep that this time creates, we are left with remnants of thoughts, ideas, nourishment, and toxins that run rampant causing a mind that cannot become aware of its thoughts.
- Set your sleep intention — Use your journaling or meditation time to delve into why sleep is important to your mind.
- Get curious and ask (Creator, God, Nature, Spirit) to show you exactly what takes place in your mind during your sleep patterns.
- This week focuses on how the mind is affected by deep sleep and rest.
- Protect your sleep Intention:
- Take note and build awareness around how you give away your sleep time.
- How you may de-prioritize it.
- How do you use it to escape.
- Be willing to look at all aspects of your relationship to sleep.
- Prioritize your sleep strategy or routine for 7 days.
Journaling questions to ask:
Show me what sleep facilitates for my mind?
How much sleep is right for me tonight?
What gets in the way of my sleep?
2. Meditation - The second number 1 priority to living mindfully with the mind, is the awareness that a meditation practice avails you. Through watching what is present, what is hidden in the cupboards, and even what is lurking in the darkest recesses, we begin to recognize that it is, in fact, true that we are not our thoughts. Meditation can help you develop the ability to distance yourself from your thinking in everyday life. During meditation, we can literally sit back and watch, witness, and listen to the thoughts that are present, without attaching to, or identifying with them. Just like running daily is important to the marathoner, so is meditation to the awareness-seeking human. Meditation is a training ground for sitting with the thoughts and not allowing them to take the reins.
- Set your meditation intention, use your journaling time to delve into why meditation is important to your mind.
- Set a space and time for meditation. Be disciplined with this aspect and turn to the same space and time, at first, so that all of your systems become acutely aware of what is happening next.
- Practice good enough. While having a nice quiet space, candles burning, and beautiful music is nice it is not necessary and can keep you from your seat. So simply sit, breathe, and watch your thoughts as they continue to flow, for as much time as you can. Congratulate yourself and return the next day.
- Get curious and ask (Creator, God, Nature, Spirit) to show you exactly what takes place, in your mind, during your meditation.
- Release the inclination to “meditate” for a specific goal.
- Protect your meditation Intention
- Take note, and build awareness around how you give away your meditation time.
- Be willing to look at all aspects of your relationship with meditation.
- Prioritize your meditation strategy for 3 weeks.
What is my intention for meditating?
Why am I making meditation a priority in my daily life?
What gets in the way of my meditation time?
3. Nourishing Information - At the same time as we look to nourish the body with whole, unprocessed goodness from the earth, we look to feed our minds with whole, unprocessed information and thought. In other words, being mindful of what we bring into our minds, to digest, in the way of information, is just as important for our well-being as what we feed our bodies. We have become a culture that shocks ourselves continually with info that is overprocessed, and incongruent with our reality. While being informed is useful for thought, ideas, and change, continuing to consume a bombardment of overprocessed and shock factor information is not useful. Any type of repetitive and shocking information can send our body and mind into a state of dissonance, leaving us in a traumatized state, and unable to fully engage the part of our mind that creates solutions. I invite you to try on the idea that as we release our death grip on knowing exactly what is transpiring, we can begin to digest what is happening, and hence, we can then feel, sense, lean into, what is happening, with a clear mind, true empathy, compassion, and inspired action.
- Set your intention for nourishing the mind - Use your journaling time to delve into how you want to be informed, and what you want to bring in the way of knowledge or entertainment.
- Get curious, and ask (Creator, God, Nature, Spirit) to show you exactly what takes place, in your mind, and body, during and after you take in information.
- Choose intentionally. Who and what are you allowing into your home, either physically or through an immeasurable supply of information in print, and in the airwaves?
- Protect your intention for nourishing the mind.
- Take note, and build awareness around how you give away your free agency or even how you use the information to escape the mind.
- Be willing to look at all aspects of your relationship to information and knowledge.
- Prioritize your nourishment strategy for 7 days.
Journaling questions to ask:
Where do I prefer to get information, and why?
Who do I like to discuss ideas with, and why?
There is no right or perfect way to do any of this. There is also no wrong way, yet there is the beauty of imperfection, humility, and practice, that brings with it curiosity, wonder, confusion, and balance. This is my invitation to you, in a world full of strife and imbalance, we can find our own equilibrium and share it with pride and joy.
I’d love to know if you can relate to what I’ve shared here. Let me know in the comments below what comes up for you as you read this post. If you know anyone who would benefit from reading this post, then feel free to share it and if you feel called to, join my mailing here to receive my weekly Mindful Monday musing much like the above.