I have been practicing mindfulness meditation daily for nearly 2 years now, and I have gained so much from it. On a really basic level, being mindful and training the mind is just about learning to understand it more. Has being mindful helped me understand my mind more? Definitely. This journey to really knowing the true me began in 2008 and the start of my yoga practice: adding daily mindfulness and meditation practice to this has made me even more in tune with myself. Something that, throughout my pregnancy, has been both a blessing and a curse. I am SO aware of every little part of me, and so in tune with my thoughts, feelings and how I actually feel physically that when something has not felt “right”, or pregnancy has thrown a new crazy emotion or physical pain into the mix it has been sometimes difficult to not panic. On the flip side, being truly mindful has set me free to some extent from both thinking about the past and worrying about the future, as I am just HERE NOW. I really do worry so much less, and when I do worry I realise it pretty quickly and have a word with myself. I notice so much more than I ever have before, and I know exactly how to bring myself back when I do have a day where I don’t feel so good. It also makes me really appreciate those days when I do feel fantastic and like I could take on the world and win 🙂
Be under no illusion though: Being mindful is not all unicorns, kittens and burgers! The present moment can be tough and filled with pain, confusion and uncertainty, so for many people being mindful is, understandably, not really that appealing!!! And I totally get that – why would someone going through a really tough time want to just be really aware of that, and really live every thought and feeling that comes with the tough time? For me, I really welcome feeling everything – it is so important to me and the way I live my life. But I have built up to this point and I know that everyone is different. For those people who struggle to cope with negative feelings and situations I can see how mindfulness has no appeal. This led me to thinking that surely there is MORE we can do than just be mindful….at least this is what I have been thinking for quite some time now. And, this is where Kindness comes in…
Any of you that see any of my instagram feed will know that Imperfectly Pure places a great deal of importance on love, kindness and compassion – for yourself and those around you:
For me, this way of treating people, and treating myself, is really important. My husband always jokes with me that I believe that “all you need is love”, because this is actually what I really do believe. It is something that I encourage my clients to do as much as possible, and it’s something that I do myself, because it offers people who are experiencing dark, challenging emotions a way of working through them.
With this in mind, you can imagine how I felt when I happened across a talk by monk Ajahn Brahm on “Kindfulness”, which is what you get when you add Kindness to your Mindfulness practice. BINGO! It was a major lightbulb moment for me 🙂
Mindfulness + Kindness = Kindfulness
For me, being kind is one of the most amazing things to do with mindfulness, it gives my practice extreme power because it means that I really care about everything I feel and everything I experience – I don’t just feel it.
In the talk, Ajahn Brahm encourages us to DO SOMETHING about the things we are aware of, if we can, and if we can’t do something about them then at least change our attitude to what is happening. He answers some really important questions:
When is the most important time? NOW. It is the time your future is being made! So be peaceful, happy, forgiving, and kind NOW and you will be creating for yourself a wonderful future.
Who is the most important person? THE ONE IN FRONT OF YOU. Do one thing at a time – don’t try and get rid of things because a lot of life is trying to teach you something. Give everything value, even sleepiness in meditation (which I know for people just starting out in their practice is hard!) – let it be. That changes the attitude and whole experience of life.
What is the most important thing to do? TO CARE. You can’t cure everybody BUT you can care for everybody. You can never fail at this. It helps you to appreciate people exactly as they are, and give you a bit more wisdom in life.
And it 100% applies to you too. If you have scars (literal or not) its important to care for them because it’s our scars that make us beautiful, real and natural. We don’t need to try to be perfect or cure everything, just care: and this is what kindfulness is. It really is much more potent that mindfulness because you are aware of your thoughts and feelings and you show them warmth. Imagine opening the door of your heart to whatever you are, wherever you have been and to everything that has happened to you and welcoming it inside. What a huge relief, that instead of trying to solve the dark parts of you and your life you love them. I continue to learn this every day, especially throughout my pregnancy. I thought that the parts of me I was kind of ashamed of I had “solved”, all the negative feelings I have ever had towards myself and the way I look, I thought these were gone. But they have resurfaced time and again and it has been SO healing and brought me so much peace to just welcome these feelings in and love them. They are not me but they are a part of me still, it is just that now I know how to change my attitude towards them. I don’t let these feelings define me, because I have grown so much in the years that have passed, but I do show them compassion; I show young, insecure me love. Treating every part of yourself with kindness really can transform you: it allows you to find peace because there really is nothing to be done, nothing to try and change. And so then you can become still, and get a real insight from that stillness, a really accurate reflection of what is happening in your mind. Only through Stillness can you see things as they truly are.
Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.
Brahm believes that kindfulness will solve all of your problems, and I am inclined to agree!
You can also get to know where feelings manifest in the body. Every emotion generates a physical feeling and response, so if you feel anger or sadness get to know where you physically feel that and massage it. Show it some love and kindness!
Adding kindness compassion to your mindfulness is what it’s like when someone doesn’t try to change you and simply accepts you as being IMPERFECT, which is really one of the founding principles of Imperfectly Pure! So Kindfulness just feels so right to me. It is so perfect for all of us for the very fact that it is not about being perfect. I have lost count of the number of times clients or friends have said “oh I am no good at meditating, I can only manage 5 minutes and then I lose it!”. To this I always say, “but that’s ok! Maybe that is just what you should be doing. Why not just be thankful you tried”…..treating what happens with kindness really does set you free if you allow it to.
Next time you experience a hard time, or something from your past resurfaces that you thought you had “buried” try welcoming the feelings it creates and treating them with warmth and compassion, I feel sure it will help you and bring you some peace.
I hope this has been helpful for you and would like to thank Ajahn Brahm for bringing the practice of Kindfulness to my life.