Seeing things just as they are

1 more sleep until LA!  I’m so excited to get out of Toronto and embark on this 6-day adventure to the City of Angels where I will be fully immersed in mindful self-compassion.  Not to mention, this is the first time I’ve every travelled on my own and I am can’t wait to take in every minute of this new experience!  Today’s post is the last post in this 3-part series on self-compassion and we are going  to explore the concept of mindfulness.  Read on!

 

My acne was out of control.

And I was tired of just sitting back and letting it run my life.  It was time to take action and deal with it my way.

I researched holistic ways of treating acne.

Became vegetarian, went gluten-free, stopped drinking coffee.

Made appointments with dermatologists.

Saw numerous naturopaths, nutritionists, and herbal medicine practitioners.

Began seeing a stress counselor.

Spent hours upon hours online searching natural acne remedies.

Tried every kind of yoga from hot Bikram to Iyengar.

Experimented with every cream, oil, lotion and ointment.

And spent countless dollars on books promising to help me heal my gut, detoxify my liver and stress less.

All in the name of finding a cure for my cystic acne and finally ending my pain and suffering.

And while all of these actions were part of my experience to get where I am today and find what worked best for me, at no point did I stop and notice how much I was suffering.  I was so busy being in “problem solving” mode, and spending incredible amounts of time and energy dealing with the crisis.  Although this is certainly necessary, it is very important to recognize that these moments take a lot out of us emotionally.  When I finally hit my breaking point (which was, consequently when my skin started getting better!) I was so exhausted and fed up with trying to fight my acne, that I just gave up.

And that was the key. 

I had finally tapped into the crux of mindfulness, which requires noticing of suffering without avoidance or aversion.  Instead of avoiding my suffering, I turned toward it.  Because, in order to show compassion to yourself, you need to be aware of painful emotions.  You need to feel to heal.

Mindfulness requires you to take a balanced approach to negative emotions.  So while it is important to not suppress negative feelings, it’s also important to not exaggerate them as well.   Avoid getting lost in the story; it’s about seeing things just as they are.  No more, no less.

We’ve all done it: a painful situation occurs and you get lost in the emotions of it.  You get caught up reliving the moment in the past or you’re constantly worry about a future event which may (or may not) come.

My skin is so awful, it’s never get better and no one will ever love me and I’ll be unhappy forever.

(Oh yes, I’ve said it, thought it, felt it.)

Mindfulness reminds us that reality only happens in the present moment and helps bring our awareness to a new level.  This is important because it allows us to take a giant step back from ourselves and question whether or not what we think is actually true.  Rather than reacting to a situation out of fear, anger or pain, we can respond from a place of love and calm.

And so, I want you to try something the next time you catch yourself going into problem solving mode.  It's a Noting Practice.

Get into a comfortable sitting position and sit down for about 10 minutes.  Simply note any sounds, thoughts, emotions, smells or physical sensations that arise in your awareness.  If you feel an itch, notice it and then respond accordingly (free to scratch it!).  Notice your breath "breathing in", feelings of impatience "when is this going to be over?", or distractions "phone vibrating on the table".

Every time you become aware of a new experience, acknowledge it and make a quiet mental note to yourself.  And if your mind starts to wander and you realize you've completely forgotten about your noting practice, acknowledge the experience (kindly!) and note "lost in thought" and come back to now.

It is possible to train ourselves to become more present and have better awareness.  And the benefit is improved mental strength to deal with challenging situations that inevitably occur.

 

Now over to you, what do you think of the Noting Practice? Did you find you were able to stay present, or did your mind wander?