One of the first obstacles we bump into as we begin a mindfulness practice is that we see just how distracted our minds actually are.
As we work towards developing the ‘focused awareness’ that is the goal of most mindfulness practices, we have no choice but to come face to face with all of the distractions running through our minds at any given time. The work of the practice is to learn how to observe these distractions with curiosity and compassion, rather than frustration and judgement.
It’s no easy task especially at the beginning. However, within this practice of observing our distractions, we also have to re-learn what is likely a long-neglected skill: beginning again.
In noticing our thoughts, recognizing distractions, and then instead of being frustrated with our monkey minds, we teach ourselves to just notice, to be compassionate towards ourselves and most importantly, we learn to begin again.
We use the breath as an anchor, grounding us in the truth of our bodies, and reminding us that to live is to breath. To breath is to endlessly repeat what could be thought of as a mundane activity, and yet what could be more important than taking in the very air that keeps us alive?
To breathe, we begin again, and again and again. We don’t judge our breath; we just do it.
If we enter into our practice with a mind clenched like a fist, our breath and soft focus can help relax and release that tension. Within that tension there are likely more thoughts and emotions than we can count. And yet our practice helps us accept them all with loving kindness, and to allow our mind and body to rest together. As thoughts arise, we notice them, and we begin again.
It sounds so simple, and yet any of us who have tried to practice while we are actively ‘thinking’ about something will recognize just how challenging this actually can be.
And yet, this is the very foundation of forgiveness.
That is a special kind of peace, and one not easily achieved.
The discipline of ‘beginning again’ is so powerful and so deceptively simple.
In our mindfulness practice we notice our distractions, our ghosts of mediocrity, and we can restart, reconnect and we can reframe those very thoughts against the backdrop of a peaceful and nonjudgmental mind.
Beginning again means giving up the struggle that we all live with in our minds at any given time We give up our search for meaning by just paying attention to what is.
Through a mindfulness practice we acquire an ability to leave things as they are, if only for a moment at a time. In just observing our thoughts and distractions, rather than judging them or applying emotion to them, we offer a kind of forgiveness to our monkey mind. We allow ourselves to begin again with each breath, and we move a little closer to being able to apply this practice in our regular, waking lives.
Each time we begin again in our practice, each time we recognize where thoughts have offered a distraction and we gently bring ourselves back to our focus, we are making peace with all the chaos in our own minds. We are learning to live with ourselves in a new way, and we are learning to embrace the discomfort of it all.
We know that we increase our neuroplasticity through each cycle of observation and release of distraction. We know that having a consistent practice that challenges us to become more observant and more aware of the contents of our own minds is like weightlifting for our brain. And that ultimately the beginning again and again in our work to understand ourselves and achieve a kind of peace within our own minds is one of the most amazing gifts we can possibly grant to ourselves and those around us.
When we begin to understand that a negative thought can feel the same as a pleasant one…. all because of the power of observation and curiosity…that’s like uncovering a superpower we didn’t realize we had!
To have the presence of mind to discern that we get to choose how we feel about our thoughts. Giving up the struggle to control how our thoughts make us feel. Recognizing the power and peace to be found in acceptance, forgiveness and being able to begin again… that is magic indeed!
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