This is the third instalment of my journey into Mindfulness. This is where we try to re-orient our lives so we can enjoy them fully. But, to live life enjoyably we have to learn how to handle difficulties.
Many times in life reality SLAPS us in the face, where we experience disappointment, frustration, loss, illness, and aging. It’s a shock and it hurts, it knocks us off balance and we struggle hard to maintain our equilibrium. Some people get very upset having to exert all their energy to maintain their foothold in life.
But, after the SLAP, what comes next is even more shocking. This is the space between two realities, the one we have in the present and the one we would want. We have to reconcile ourselves to this space which could last days, weeks, or years. We are ill-equipped to deal with this. And this is when you need your mindfulness skills, deep breathing, etc.
When we are faced with a difficulty, whether it’s extreme stress, illness in ourselves or in a loved one, exhaustion or sadness, it’s natural to try hard to eliminate it or push it away. We might even go into denial and pretend it’s not there.
But, eventually these strategies no longer work and our miserable feelings persist. We must find a different way of relating to ourselves and the world.
This is the hard part, we have to ACCEPT whatever is troubling us. It means turning towards it. ACCEPTANCE means to grasp and understand how things really are. Many people stumble at this point.
Acceptance means dropping the struggle and letting go. Mindfulness teaches us it’s easier and more effective to live with our troubles than to pour extreme energy into battling them and trying to suppress them.
By accepting the negative thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations we prevent our mind going on a downward spiral. We sap the momentum from the negativity and we calm down.
So, we want to keep as many breathing spaces as possible during the day to anchor ourselves in the present.
One of the weapons we have against difficult thoughts and feelings is Defusion, which turns OFF our STRUGGLE SWITCH.
Our negative thoughts FUSE together, like sheets of molten metal fuse together. When we are fused to bad thoughts they have an enormous miserable effect on us. They are threats that pressure us to try to eliminate. But, that voice in our head keeps talking! But, when we defuse from our negative thoughts, they lose all their power over us.
Here is an example of a Defusion exercise:
Put a negative self-judgment into a sentence, for example:
“I’m fearful of the future.” Repeat it a few times.
Now say the thought with this phrase in front of it: “I’m having the thought that,
I’m fearful of the future.” Repeat.
Then, lastly, add this phrase: “I notice I’m having the thought that, I’m fearful of the future.” Repeat.
Did you notice after repeating the last line, a sense of SEPARATION and DISTANCE from the thought?
You did! Well, you’ve just had an experience of Defusion.
So, what happened?
When you hold on to a negative thought and let it dictate how you feel, you will be stuck and struggling in misery.
But, with Defusion, you learn how to let a bad thought come and go without being pushed around by it.
Mindfulness focuses around two processes:
Developing ACCEPTANCE of unwanted thoughts and experiences which are out of our personal control.
And, a commitment of action to live a valued life (we will discuss this in another instalment).
So, to sum up: To handle life’s difficulties you need to:
FACE YOUR DEMONS and DEVELOP MINDFULNESS SKILLS