I’ve been a meditator for almost 3 years now. 2015 was a difficult period in my life when all I could do was to either ruminate about the past or worry about the uncertainties of the future. That was when I got introduced to the idea of just focusing on my breathing and watching my thoughts come and go. It sounded simple, but it just took a couple of seconds for me to realize how natural it is to be doing the exact opposite- associating with the passing thoughts and twitching to get off the meditation practice thinking how I’d be better off doing something ‘more productive’ instead.
But I persisted. Every time my mind wandered, I gently brought back my attention to the breathing. This worked wonders. The whole idea of meditation is to be able to bring that calmness into our daily life- when we are especially dealing with difficult situations in the ‘real world’. Most of the times when I had a difficult thought or an unwanted feeling, instead of getting associated with it and acting on impulses like before, I started to watch myself. More often than not, this helped me draw a line between stimuli and my response.
Only yesterday, I came back exhausted from facilitating a session. Although I genuinely love what I do, it wasn’t a good feeling; I felt both physically and mentally exhausted. I could not concentrate on other admin tasks. Thoughts started popping up one after another. “I can’t seem to concentrate.” “I wish I could go home and sleep.” “What if this pattern continues?” “How will I sustain my efforts?” “Where is this company going?” “Why is everything so damn irritating right now?” You see! The monkey mind doing it’s job. Earlier, these kinds of thoughts would consume me and dictate my way of being- moody, impulsive, unproductive, and generally negative. It would take a long while for me to get back to being optimistic again. But yesterday, my mindfulness practice stepped in to help me realize my thought patterns within 30 seconds of them arising. I realized I needed to do a quick mindfulness practice. I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. A few minutes later, I went to the terrace and did some mindful walking activity for another couple of minutes. Within 5 minutes, I felt better and was now ready to attend a meeting downstairs that was slated to start at 3pm.
If I had not taken that pause, I would have proved to be a difficult participant in the meeting. I would bring with me my negativity and affect all others; including myself. Without the awareness of my feelings, I could not possibly be wise enough to realize that I needed to take a pause. This, I have come to realize, is precisely the difference between people who can manage their emotions well and others who are almost always guided by impulse.
Mindfulness is the ability to break out of our habitual emotional responses and pay attention to the present moment. I’m by no means an expert in this field. But I’ve been a devoted student. It’s been a transformative journey since those difficult days in 2015. I practice mindfulness because I care- about myself and those around me.