I have a confession to make. I have been very poor at practising mindfulness recently. Not just MSC, any form of meditation at all. It’s the old cliche – life got too busy and I just haven’t had the time.
This is the truth. In the past 4 months I have moved countries, changed job, found a new place to live and generally struggled just to find my feet. It has been extremely unsettling; and hectic – hence my mindfulness practice moved further and further down my “to do” list until it dropped off the end. During the time I needed it most, I lost it completely.
I was frustrated and angry at myself – the meditation stool in the corner of my living room served as a constant reminder that I was failing. But perhaps all was not lost. Despite not doing my usual daily practice, I found myself able to recognise when I was feeling uncomfortable; “anxiety,” “fear,” “shame.” A glimmer of some of my previous training shining through – I was recognising suffering. But it was difficult; and it didn’t make feeling it any easier.
I began to speak to friends and family and named the emotions – my anxiety became “anxiety” and my fear became “fear”
I was so caught up in the practicalities and stresses of relocation that I forgot suffering is universal; a shared experience of the human race. Everyone can relate to feeling anxious or fearful at some point. I began to speak to friends and family and named the emotions – my anxiety became “anxiety” and my fear became “fear”. I was reminded these feelings don’t belong to me. They became less personal, and less scary. I was reminded that it was okay to be gentle on myself for feeling like this; that it was hard, and that was okay.
These are the very basics of a mindfulness-based compassion practice; recognising suffering, accepting it and offering yourself kindness. This isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. But it has struck me how easily and quickly I slipped back into the belief that I was alone in my difficulties and that I should be doing better. The judgement that I had let my practice fall by the wayside and was struggling was the second arrow.
Rick Hanson has described the brain as “teflon for the good and velcro for the bad.” We have a natural negativity bias; which we must literally train ourselves to overcome. I reverted back to old habits and negative thought processes which ran very smoothly thank you very much – no practice necessary! Mindfulness-based self compassion is a skill which takes years to perfect; it is often fighting against years of bad habits. Like any long term practice – there will be ups and downs.
So without any shame or judgement; I will pick up my practice where I left off – welcoming myself back with open arms.