When I first signed up for a mindfulness course, I was given a sheet with some “points to consider” –
“If you have recently received treatment from a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or counselor for an ongoing mental health problem, we strongly advise you to obtain approval from your mental health professional.”
Fine so far, none of that applied to me. The next bit:
“If you have recently or are currently going through a traumatic life event such as a separation from a long term partner, the death of a close family member or friend or redundancy this may not be the right time for you to continue with this course”
Great two of those applied to me. However typical of me, I pushed myself to start my mindfulness practice in the middle of my breakup and just after being made redundant. Since I’ve never been one to take the easy route I was pretty sure I could cope.
Once I started my training I did find it challenging, it was making me do exactly what I didn’t want and that was to focus on the chaos that was my life. I was having panic attacks, there were times that my heart would just beat really fast, for no apparent reason, so I thought. Then there was the constant need to keep moving, to not sit still with any of the thoughts in my head. I guess it was just to painful.
But I was right to follow my instinct and right to also turn to the Buddhist teachings for support. I remember asking a monk who was leading a teaching about how you practice compassion to someone who really hurt you and his reply was “he is your greatest teacher, you should be thankful to him”. I didn’t want to hear that then but I know now he was exactly right.
Practising Mindfulness does have “side effects” and once you start on this path there is no turning back:
- Mindfulness wakes you up. You are able to stay more in the present, so will worry less.
- It will make you more aware of your body and what it needs to be healthy.
- You will change how you relate to people and situations.
- It is all about learning about yourself, being comfortable with who you really are and accepting yourself as an imperfect human being.
- Because you are embarking on a journey of self knowledge, sometimes you will feel uncomfortable, you may cry for no apparent reason. Feelings will surface and they will demand your attention.
- Letting go will become easier.
- You will become aware of how society is constructed to make us all the same.
- You will understand the power of forgiveness.
- You will start to appreciate that life is simple, there’s nothing to work out.
- And perhaps the most valuable side effect is that you start to see everything and everyone as a teacher.
So if you decide to practice mindfulness be ready for the side effects.