If you didn’t already know, over the past 8 weeks I’ve been following and practicing the mindfulness course laid out by Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology, in his book co-written with Danny Penman – Mindfulness: a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world (quotes from the book are shown in italics). My aim was to learn how to absolutely thrive in this frantic world.
‘Finding peace in a frantic world is not easy. In our darkest hours it can seem as if the entire world has been designed from the ground up to maximise our distress and drive us to exhaustion. Stress and anxiety can seem overwhelming and full-blown depression can appear to be only a hair’s breadth away.‘
Looking back to when I started this course 8 weeks ago I could relate to that mentality so clearly. I allowed thoughts to rule my life, to drag me in to spirals of brooding and negativity and to put me in a continuous state of stress, anxiety and misery, that I battled on a daily basis. I thought the main culprit was my job. It gave me something to blame instead of myself.
Quite simply – now I know better. These were symptoms of the way I related to myself, other people and the world around me. They were signs I needed to pay attention to …
In the early sessions of the course I learned to recognize doing mode and to cultivate being mode. I learned to pay intentional sustained attention to initially the simplest of things, the breath. I learned to gently bring my mind back, time and time and time again, to pay attention to what I wanted to focus on. With kindness. Without criticism or judgement.
I learned to see the patterns of my mind that distracted me – to see thoughts as passing events. I learned that doing mode was useful, but not all the time. Sometimes it simply isn’t the best approach.
As we moved on through the course I learned to disengage from doing and to enter a state of just being. I gained strategies to develop choices when stress, anxiety or other negativity threatened to overwhelm me.
I learned to make space in my mind. I learned to appreciate completion and to nurture a sense of wholeness. And I learned to have compassion for myself and courage to take action. To invest in me.
I learned that I am whole, just as I am.
This final week focused on ‘… the rest of your life.’
I feel this is just the start. There’s so much more to learn. I can imagine this being a lifelong commitment and investment.
Would I recommend this course to other people? Wholeheartedly. Without hesitation. To everyone I meet. But to truly understand the power of mindfulness you really need to experience it for yourself.
I have to admit now I’m at the end of the 8 weeks I feel a little lost. A bit like the apron strings have been cut and I’m being released out into the world. I feel some trepidation in finding my own path.
But I know I will weave my mindfulness practice in to my daily routines. I’ll move forward with the practices that best fit me and best fit what I need at that time. As the closing paragraph of this wonderful book says:
‘Practice as if your life depended on it,
as in many ways, it surely does. For then you
will be able to live the life you have – and
live it as if it truly mattered.’
My intent from here on is to live my life to the full right now, in this moment. Not in the past or the future. And not putting things off until tomorrow. As the opening quote from the book said – now is the only moment I’ll ever have. It’s time to appreciate it.
“Meditation is really a non-doing. It is the only human endeavor I know of that does not involve trying to get somewhere else but, rather, emphasizes being where you already are.”
“Mindfulness is a lifetime’s journey along a path that ultimately leads nowhere, only to who you are.”
“Rather than a philosophy, it is a way of being, a way of living your moments and living them fully.”