As Lee and Aaron have mentioned in the previous newsletters, mindfulness and presence are such an integral foundation for personal growth. They help us attune to what’s happening right now for us with non-judgemental awareness. Without presence or mindfulness, we just stay stuck swimming in our thoughts, unconscious patterning and defenses, and we often are not aware of what’s really going on for us. We, therefore, can remain stagnant without presence or mindfulness. That’s why at COR, we sometimes allude to mindfulness as the flashlight that we can shine on what is currently happening for us physically, emotionally, or mentally with compassionate curiosity.
This can be so hard to cultivate these skills because many of us, including myself, can get unconsciously swept away by our thoughts. For example, we can get caught up in planning, thinking ahead into the future or reflecting on the past, or multi-tasking in our day to day lives. We can also get swept away by our natural human patterning to want to avoid, numb out to, or ignore anything uncomfortable. For example, I’ve noticed how hard it is for me to maintain my meditation and mindfulness practices especially when there might be tumultuous emotions brewing underneath the surface. It can be hard to be present in the moment when my own defenses want to numb out and to avoid either happy or uncomfortable feelings.
So what can take us out of presence? Our thoughts as well as our little addictions. For me, checking social media or my phone as well as binging out on TV shows are my addictions. Every time I step into an elevator or wait in line, I want to check my phone. I want to check out from the present moment. And most often when I get back from leading workshops, I want to check out and numb out by watching hours of TV. It’s easier to sit on the couch watching Grey’s Anatomy rather than feel my anxiety build for another workshop or whatever other emotions might be present for me.
While these things are fine in the short term, they often are strategies I use to detach from the present moment and avoid whatever I might be feeling (whether stress, overwhelm, fear, etc). Yet what we avoid and resist, persists. So the cycle can continue, meaning more fear, sadness or frustration stirs. And then I continue to avoid those emotions more through Facebook, Instagram, or TV. Typically I notice that after a week of wanting to check out and watch TV during breaks means I numbing out to something and it’s an indication to me that I need to tune in. What might have started as “self-care” and resting has turned into an ignoring of what is really going on for me. That’s why mindfulness can be so helpful in personal growth as well as important.
Mindfulness is the thing that has us notice our usual patterning or defenses so we can begin to free ourselves of them. Mindfulness helps us inquire deeper, with compassion and non-judgment, to see what else might be going on or what might be present. Then, when we can notice these emotions and when we can welcome them rather than avoid them, that’s when life becomes more fruitful. That’s typically when an emotion that might have remained stagnant begins to shift and move.
When I can tune in rather than tune out in the elevator, I realize I might be feeling anxious about an upcoming call, that I’m feeling lonely, or even that I may be happy but that feels vulnerable to just allow myself to fully feel that joy. And in that moment, I get to choose to keep noticing, to keep leaning in and welcoming. So my invitation to you this week is to practice mindfulness to notice where you might be numbing out or avoiding your emotions.
What little addictions might help you numb out? And when you can notice that, bring mindfulness to what might be stirring for you underneath. Notice how your body is feeling. Are you tight or tense anywhere? Is your stomach churning or your throat feel constricted? And notice how you are feeling emotionally. Do you feel numb? Frustrated? Anxious? Fearful? Sad? Happy perhaps? Even notice the thoughts that go through your head. Are you wanting to check your phone and not do this? Does your mind then wander to a problem or to work?
You get to see then what happens when you bring your attention, awareness, and presence to this. What if you welcomed whatever you might be feeling and allowed the feelings to be there? What if you found more distance from your thoughts rather than being run by them unconsciously?
Let us know how it goes! This is often the first step as well as one of the most important ones, and it’s something each of us gets to keep practicing—including me!