Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Journey Toward Mindfulness

I retired from the corporate world in January of 2017.  I spent the next few months putting my private clinical practice together and began seeing clients in April.  I decided to include mindfulness practice in my therapeutic approach. During my break from being a therapist when in the corporate world, mindfulness began being recognized as an evidence based practice.  I have been meditating for a several decades. Through it, I have experienced growth and improvement in my own peace and tranquility. Working with my clients on increasing mindfulness seemed like the next step for me.  It prompted me to work more on me in this area and study how to incorporate it into my clinical work.

Some people become enlightened in a moment.  Others become enlightened based on a daily practice.  My journey has been marked by meditative practices, by finding authors and teachers who gave me increased insight, by finding new tools and by having friends to talk with as I journeyed toward mindfulness. I have had moments of awakening that changed my life, but I still struggled with thoughts and feelings that disrupted my mindfulness. Because I have continued to have moments when I was not mindful, this would cause harm through thoughts and words to myself and others.  I seek being awake and mindful and harming no one. 

The best part of this ongoing process is that my son and fitness coach is also working on becoming more mindful.  We talk about authors, books and insights during weekly weight training workouts.  During 2018, he read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and asked me to read it.   I found this book to contain what has become a daily practice.  I list them here briefly.  I encourage you to read the book. It is quite short and worth your time.  May it be the glove you put on every morning (and repeatedly) to help you stay mindful.  Self-love is the key to being kind and loving toward others, and these agreements definitely promote increased love and compassion toward self and others.  If you choose to use them, remember to apply them with love and humor.  When my thoughts are not impeccable (1), I take things personally (2), or I make assumptions (3), I give myself a gentle nudge and reminder by pointing to the fact that I always do my best (4).

Agreement 1:  I agree I will have impeccable thoughts and words toward MYSELF and ALL others.  I found this a bit challenging in these days of social media posts but very helpful to reset me, especially in traffic or when identifying negative thoughts toward myself.  It really helps with loving kindness towards self and others. I use loving words toward myself and others. I do not judge or blame myself or you as those negative thoughts will cause me to be more negative toward me and others.  I strive to use my words for truth and love and gratitude and not for anger, jealousy, envy or hate.  Impeccable words can transcend this world from one of suffering to one of joy.

Agreement 2:  I agree I will not take things personally.  We have all heard this, but when I read Ruiz's discussion of Toltec beliefs, it made it really sync with my head.  You see the Toltecs believed we are all asleep and have our own dreamworld based on everything we have learned, both intentional and unintentional.   Our beliefs are not reality or truth, but we feel they are. Our thoughts are just thoughts based on past learning.    Our purpose in life is to wake up to this by being present in every moment.  By doing this, we learn to notice our thoughts but not let them decide our actions and words.  I do not take things personally because what you say to or about me is about your dream world and has nothing to do with who I am. You can only know me by asking questions and me answering.   It helps neither of us if I respond out of my dream world and get offended.  If I FEEL offended, I must realize I took what you said personally and simply need to notice this rather than act on it.  I can do this by remembering that each thought is simply one of tens of thousands I will have each day and is not truth. I do this by remembering how little we really know about each other, no matter how long we have known each other.   

Agreement 3:  I agree I will not make assumptions about anyone or anything.  I ask questions to learn more. We are too often afraid to ask questions.  If asking questions is not possible (because it is about someone or something in the past) or profitable because I am aware from experience that the person is unable to speak honestly, I simply dismiss the story I am telling myself, moving on in the present moment and staying out of the past or present.   I try to stay clear of the trap of making assumptions and taking things personally.  These things can lead to gossip which is definitely not impeccable. When I ask questions, I increase my understanding and decrease the the potential for hurtful words and thoughts.  When I recognize that what you say about me comes out of your dreamworld, I know it has nothing to do with who I am. 

Agreement 4:  I agree that I always do my best.  This helps me not judge myself when my thoughts are not impeccable, I take things personally, or I make assumptions.  I will not profit from looking back and critiquing my behavior which results in blaming myself or others.  I accept that I always do my best.  I cannot go back because the past no longer exists.   I can only be present in the now.  I agree to do my best, to learn to be fully present in every moment.  I agree to see you (me), hear you (me) and ask questions of you(me).  This is my best. 

If you are on the journey toward mindfulness, are thinking about the possibility of becoming more present and mindful, try using these agreements to help you in the process.  It is very helpful to have people who are also working on mindfulness to support your journey.

Next up:  "The Power of Now" - because I need to know how to handle all those misguided thoughts and feelings.

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