How being kind to yourself can lead to a quieter life
People sometimes think that mindfulness is about sitting still and just paying attention to the moment. Actually, how you pay attention is far more important. If you are only heedful of your frustrations over not being able to quieten your mind, then you're not doing it right.
All the evidence shows that mindfulness increases empathy and compassion for others. One of the mechanisms by which a regular practice does this is, I propose, by encouraging self-compassion.
So, later today while you are sitting comfortably and focussing on your breath, be kind towards yourself when you realise that the mind has drifted. Gently, as though dealing with an unruly child who's too young to behave, re-focus on the present.
How you treat yourself is an excellent indicator of how you will treat others, and most of us inside the privacy of our own heads are not that kind to ourselves.
How often do you mull over self-critical thoughts?
I like to tell clients to 'wear' their awareness in the same way as one wears clothes. What I mean is this: as you find yourself reading these words, you probably haven't been very aware of the feeling of the clothes on your back.
But when I draw your attention to these sensations, you most certainly won't assign a moral meaning to them. You won't say to yourself: "The feeling of my sock means that I'm a bad person."
No, one just notices the sensations of one's clothing and that's that. In the same way, while you are practising mindfulness and you notice that you're frustrated with yourself or if unpleasant emotions come up, wear your frustration lightly, noting it and gently bringing your attention back to the moment.
A side benefit to practising self-compassion is that you will get into fewer arguments with your loved ones. When irritations arise, you have the option of experiencing them non-judgementally, rather than feeding them.
You'll understand that emotions are just sensations and will therefore be less afraid of them, making you more open and honest in your relationships. You don't have to trust me on this. Experience it for yourself.
- Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at https://www.facebook.com/ Belfast Hypnosis/?ref=hl/?ref=hl