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  • Liz Dawes

Staying Present

The mind is most scattered when it tries to cling to some experiences and avoid others. Mindfulness offers a way of staying present by giving another perspective from which to view things: to help take a wider view and relate differently to experience.


“The process of unveiling oneself, or one’s true identity, inevitably involves facing what keeps us held hostage by fear and hatred. At some point, we notice that we are prisoners to thoughts, words, feelings and actions or habits that bring us down and slow our evolution. We would like to not feel jealousy, envy, insecurity, anger, etc., but something stops us from doing differently. This something is inside of us; it is our suffering selves, attached to a false identity, that doesn’t want to be happy and subsequently causes all types of misery.” Sri Prem Baba




What are your habitual patterns of thought, of behaviour? "I must never let people down". Are you a pleaser? "I'm the only one who can do this" The angry one? "I mustn't waste a minute". The workaholic? "Everyone relies on me". Driven by anxiousness? 'Why can't I switch off?' Stressed?

Unless we are paying attention to our minds and our emotions as we are going through our lives, we will simply be acting out and strengthening all the habit patterns of our conditioning.


Difficult things are part and parcel of life itself. It is how we handle those things that makes the difference between whether they rule (control) our lives or whether we can relate more lightly to them. Becoming more aware of the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations evoked by events gives us the possibility of freeing ourselves from habitual, automatic ways of reacting, so that we can instead mindfully respond in more skilful ways.


In general, we react to so called 'negative experience' in one of three ways:

-With spacing out, or boredom, so that we switch out from the present moment and go off somewhere else ‘in our heads’.

-With wanting to hold on to things – not allowing ourselves to let go of experiences that we are having right now, or wishing we were having experiences that we are not having now.

-With wanting it to go away, being angry with it – wanting to get rid of experiences that we are having right now or avoiding future experiences that we do not want.


Each of these ways of reacting is otherwise known as aversion: the drive to avoid, escape, get rid of, numb out from, or destroy things we experience as unpleasant. It is the power that keeps us entangled in negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, anger and stress.


Gradually, as we learn to practise mindfulness, we begin to become more aware of our experience, opening up the the ability to observe what’s going and actually making choices. We begin to notice that that we can choose to respond mindfully rather than reacting automatically.


The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.


A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

as an unexpected visitor.


Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,


still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.


The dark thought, the shame, the malice.

meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.


Be grateful for whatever comes.

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

Rumi

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