I witness a great deal of courage on a daily basis in clients who are learning to ‘be’ with adversity: who work to re-frame and integrate the challenges that life inevitably presents; people who are learning to live with physical pain; psychological and emotional challenges that lead to anxiety and/or depression; those facing bereavement and the ending of relationships; people retiring, losing, or changing jobs; people who have decided to ‘follow their dreams’; and people who ‘simply’ seek to understand themselves better to lead a happier, healthier and more engaged life.
I feel so blessed and inspired to work with such courageous people and do the variety of work I do whether: working with small intimate groups to share personal understanding and experience of the practice; working one-to-one in great depth; or helping to generate the deep, healing peace that is transmitted on a retreat. Above all, it is a great privilege to be a part of someone’s journey of awakening.
It takes time, patience, determination and courage to embark on the inner journey to face and come to terms with the way things are ‘right now’ – and unfortunately it usually takes an inordinate amount of pain (physical, emotional and/or psychological) to get us started. However, once we have begun learning and practising the ‘art of mindfulness’ – the formal meditation and its application in our daily lives – we often start to experience beneficial change within a relatively short space of time.
Sometimes this en-courages us to keep going with our formal practice and sometimes we let the practice slip because there has been a significant shift in how we feel! Somewhat paradoxically, when we start to feel ‘better’ the result may be that the motivation to practice wanes. The ‘secret’ to sustainable change is to practice even when we feel good!
The practice is repetitive and there is great value in that. It is through repetition that the skills become embedded in the neural pathways of the brain. This is how we modify the form and the function of the brain. As with any skill, we need to ‘clock up’ the hours for a transient ‘state’ of mind to become embedded as a more enduring ‘trait’. We may have spent years worrying and embedding that behaviour, practising mindfulness serves as an ‘antidote’, to reverse the habit of worrying.
As those of us who practice know, mindfulness is simple but not necessarily easy. It takes time and commitment and often requires some lifestyle change to make space for it, and get the most benefit from it. Also, there are many misperceptions of what it is and isn’t, and again it takes time to gain a deeper understanding of its complexities – and there is no ‘fast track’ to this understanding.