You’re a human if you’re unveiling some crap. You don’t have to like it.

25 Jul

A significant misconception exists among many newbie mindfulness adopters.

It may sound mystical and I think it frequently turns people off because of its perceived leanings toward Eastern religion, but mindfulness isn’t about becoming religious. Perhaps for some, that’s important, but what I find is it’s much more easily accepted when it’s looked at for its tools toward becoming more in tune with one’s self and acquiring skill in concentrated awareness.

wpid-20130718_115011.jpgMindfulness meditation, while it has been around for thousands of years, has been garnering tremendous interest among fitness, health, and medical communities of late. Described by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher and founder of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at UMass, as a compassionate, non-judgmental focus on present-moment experience, mindfulness meditation is among the top six most recommended therapies of complementary and alternative medicine. And it’s evidence-based! According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in 2006 slightly over 9% of Americans engaged in meditation. That same year almost a million children meditated, and school districts across the country are now teaching mindfulness to children in the classrooms.

If you believe meditation in its various forms, and mindfulness in general, is just a rather fruity way of achieving some sort of transcendental spacing out, think again. It is being used  by millions to achieve optimal wellness; to cope with anxiety and stress; to manage emotional pain; to decrease the debilitating effects of depression, insomnia, and chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease; and to manage the psychological effects and treatment of disordered eating and substance abuse, just to name a few. The children who practice it are more emotionally aware, concentrate better in class, and exhibit greater resilience in the face of setbacks. Spacing out has no place in mindfulness—it is all about tuning in!

ReflectIn a lecture I gave recently, while discussing the benefits of “leaning in” to our discomfort– taking a curious approach to it to peel back its layers and discover its underbelly– I was met with a concern from an audience member. She said, “Kori, how is that not wallowing in the pain?” A valid question. The story she had written as a young girl through experiences by her caregivers held the message of “don’t show your emotion, it’s inappropriate to feel, and if you express pain, you’re weak.” Great. So pain = wallowing? Except, we all experience pain- it’s part of the human condition. Can you imagine the difficulty this woman was having as she attempted to navigate difficult circumstances in her life? Mindfulness doesn’t mean wallowing. It means taking notice of what’s there, observing it, acknowledging it. There’s a responsibility-taking in this. An acceptance. And when you accept it you may not like it! Whatever you discover could be like stepping in crap- ew, yuck, gross! But the important piece of this is in the non-judgment of the result. So you don’t like it. Are you bad because you don’t like it? “SHOULD” you be experiencing it differently? I could give you a million examples of self-judgments and recriminations that I’ve heard throughout my work with clients, and I’m no stranger to them in my personal life. “I shouldn’t be feeling this way.” Except you do.

“Because of the human tendency to perpetuate old emotion, almost everyone carries in his or her energy field an accumulation of old emotional pain… ~ Eckhart Tolle from A New Earth

Another client email exemplified this well. She said, “As I was digging to the bottom of the issue, I was not proud of what I found…” I got stuck on this statement of hers. It was honest, real, and captivating to me. Her disappointment, anger, and fear were all over the place. As I read her description of the situation though, these were the words I got hung up on.  She wasn’t keen on the issues she found at the root of her emotion…

Herein lies that which is at the heart of mindfulness. Being aware, non-judgmentally. Discovery isn’t “supposed” to be enjoyable all the time. Enlightenment doesn’t mean that we like what we find or that we illuminate beauty. Oftentimes we uncover some pretty ugly crap. But are we not blessed to have done so? The crap itself may stink, but it’s what we choose to do with the crap that matters. Attentive awareness brings to the forefront what we may never have been present enough to see before. It’s not just about inner peace all the time. It’s about understanding so we’re not being guided blindly by falsehoods and irrationality.

You’re a human if you’re unveiling some crap. You don’t have to like it.

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4 Responses to “You’re a human if you’re unveiling some crap. You don’t have to like it.”

  1. Greg Allen July 25, 2013 at 1:02 PM #

    Once again—great stuff Kori.
    So what do you tell people once they uncover the source of their pain/suffering? Gaining insight into the “bad stuff” is a huge step…but what’s next? How do you guide them in making sense of it?

    • kpropst July 25, 2013 at 3:58 PM #

      I think it would be a tragedy if I asked them to do anything more in that moment than being with it and sensing what it feels like in their bodies and the stories it is producing in their minds. To take them away from it would be perpetuating a cycle that has kept them distanced from it for a long time. The “source” is often laden with words and symbols that carry a strong valence– just like you called it, “bad stuff.” The source, just like the pain, doesn’t necessarily have to feel “bad” or “good”–it can be neutral– but the stories we tell ourselves about the pain takes on meaning that says it’s negative. So to answer your question, it’s very much a process of understanding how perhaps it was necessary ‘back then’…effective even…but how now it no longer functions in the same way. The story needs to be revised. We can’t erase it, but we can change the plot, the characters, and the meaning.

      • Greg Allen July 26, 2013 at 10:54 AM #

        Wow…that helps me understand why I was ostracized one morning while hanging out with a group of new friends. They are very earth-minded/organic/liberal/artists/qigong folks…and, of course, I’m not really those things. One young lady was having a bad day–somewhat emotional. In the conversation, I said, “It will get better”. The room got quiet and she scolded me, “Why did you say that? Who said I wanted to get better?”. After a while a guy broke the silence by saying to me, “It doesn’t have to get better…that’s not the point.”
        I was actually referring to the weather and not her emotional state, but I didn’t figure it was a good time make that clarification.
        Your response gives me a little more insight into what went on that morning.

      • kpropst July 27, 2013 at 7:46 AM #

        That was an interesting comment on the part of your “friend.” Seems your reply was taken out of context and responded to with defensiveness. Judged. You may have more in common with these individuals than you think if you look closely, but it would be difficult to want to understand and explore their worldviews when you’re approached so harshly, I imagine. The ability to be with your emotions and thoughts without feeling as if they are “bad” or need to be changed is something that everyone, regardless of your belief system, can benefit from. If you are perpetually in a state of “it can’t be this way…” or “something has to change” or “this is wrong”, aren’t you missing the present…creating a pattern of less consciousness and more judgment of what is occurring? I would have been curious enough to ask what the point was, of the woman. “I didn’t mean to offend. Help me understand where you’re coming from.”

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