I’ve had a tumultuous (love that word!) two weeks. The conflict has been with myself and I can happily report that it is resolved now. The path to inner peace, however, was a real gift that enabled me to learn a bit more about myself. What happens if mindfulness causes mind-unrest?
Mentally, I’ve come a long way this past year, but when the learning is all in my head there’s a danger that I’ll over think things. I’ve enjoyed feeling more open to others, more accepting, more loving and more connected. I’ve practised being present to others without judgement, and I’ve consciously tried not to take things personally.
What happens though, when the experience doesn’t turn out to be a pleasant one?
When it’s an easy experience, I can channel the Dalai Lama himself – I am peace on two legs. However, when the experience is starkly different than I expected, I am aware I have a tendancy to slip back into old ways of thinking.
Over the past month or so I have been doing a volunteer role for a project that is planned in the new year. I was unsettled, awkward, and uncomfortable every time I approached the tasks but I couldn’t figure out why. The new, improved Leanne should be able to contribute to any situation without feeling uneasy about it. At least, that was what I was trying to rationalise in my head. If I understand and practice how to do the following then I should be able to successfully contribute to any group project of my choosing.
- accept others,
- realise we’re all doing the best we can do at that time,
- acknowledge that comments about the task are never actually personal,
- connect with others by having shared goals,
- be open to learning from others,
- adapt to the social norms of the group
I was wrong. I stayed calm, I listened, I accepted, I remained open and I tried to adapt. I was still uncomfortable, and this is where my inner battle began.
Do I need a completely rewired brain to stay peaceful, loving and giving in all situations?
Do you have to have a labotomy to truly be at peace with everything that challenges you? Does the Dalai Lama, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Wayne Dyer or Jon Kabat-Zinn ever get annoyed? Do they still feel anger? Disappointment? Irritation?
If I’m trying to be enlightened then why am I so damned human?
Then it hit me – I was missing a piece of the puzzle. The piece that allows any decision I make to be ok and perfect. I needed to throw in some self-compassion. I stopped, became aware of my discomfort and finally (finally!) acknowledged that I was unhappy. I gave myself permission to leave. The most loving thing I could do was to quit the project.
I stopped telling myself “I should” or “just give it a bit longer” or “it’s obviously meant to be a learning experience”. I just took notice of myself – became mindful of my discomfort and decided that I wasn’t loving myself as an equal with others. If I had a friend who was miserable I wouldn’t tell them to “just hang in there”! I’d look for a solution. In this instance, leaving was the answer.
Self-compassion provides us all with permission to be human. Practising mindful self-compassion means noticing my discomfort and addressing it demonstrates an enlightened state. It’s not just about my awareness of others, it’s about my awareness of self.