There is a great deal written nowadays suggesting that if you travel here and go there, do this/do that, you will find happiness and discover who you are! In my experience we have all we need right where we are in this moment, to develop ourselves and find a more fulfilling contented life. Yes if you have the means, the freedom and the desire to set off on some great adventure, that's wonderful, however wherever you go in the world you will always take your self with as the creator of the MBSR (Mindfulness-based stress reduction) John Kabat-Zinn says 'Where ever you go, there you are’. We are constantly searching and reaching out to the external world for gratification and the answers for a fulfilled life. Where in fact it lies within us and, as the Buddhist tradition says, we have all we need within and a circumference around us, yet we miss all the glorious opportunities lying right under our noses to create a joyful life.
Stop now close your eyes, and take three deep breaths in through the nose and steadily out through the mouth. Feel the wave of your breath flowing in and out of your body, just where you are now.
There are many messages out there saying … ‘If I do this, if I go there, if have this I will feel happier’... happiness relies on external happenings, which is transient and impermanent. Focusing on cultivating inner peace encourages a state of contentment and wellbeing. When you begin to recognise this within you, you realise you can always return to it and begin to find tools to develop this within you. As time goes on and the more you cultivate this sense of inner peace and contentment (through meditation,mindful living and yoga) you will develop a greater feeling of self worth and confidence. In my experience it begins within, always begin with your self.
Over the years I have had the honour and privilege of students sharing with me, men and women alike, they have reached a point in their lives where they feel they have hit a brick wall, a point of burnout and distress, many describe a feeling of disillusionment. They bought into the message..'If you have a successful career, beautiful relationship, 2/3/4 children, enough money to buy large homes, fast cars and many holidays etc… You will be happy’. In fact, having reached these accomplishments and have accumulated these things many speak how that feeling of ‘happiness’ alludes them. They feel low and desperate with some slipping into depression …feeling unsatisfied and restless and many needing to deal with stress related illnesses . Yes it is lovely to have all that your mind makes you believe you need in order to be happy, but only when you have cultivated inner peace can you truly enjoy them.
The greatest riches I have experienced are inner contentment, a healthy body and positive mind, loving relationships with my family and friends, as well as having the ability and opportunity to teach and practice meditation and yoga.
I have too experienced that feeling of hitting a brick wall around 25 years ago through an accumulation of personal challenges. The sudden death of my father, the break down of my marriage and a long period of financial struggle. I remember a therapist I was seeing to support and navigate me through this particularly difficult time mentioned ‘meditation’. Although I knew very little about it or what it really was I was very curious to find out more. I started to search and read up on what and where meditation came from and it's benefits. A thirst rose within me to find out more and learn how to meditate. I began searching for small groups locally to attend. At that time it was very difficult to find meditation teachers or local groups, however what I have learnt is that as soon as I have an intention it is like a radar and magnet to what I need/want to attract. The conscious and subconscious is very powerful. My children were young at the time and I was unable to travel and run away from my inner turmoil (although I never had the desire too) Instead, I had to stay put and feel and deal with whatever was arising within and what was going on around me. I discovered being a parent is very grounding and the deep love I have for my children pulled me out of bed in the morning in those dark days. My natural way has always been to put my children first and around that time I also learnt how important it was to carve out some daily space for meditation and relaxation (even if it was only 5 or 10 minutes) and not to feel guilty! …so began the beginning of my journey to cultivate inner peace. I am not saying it has been an easy one, it certainly hasn't, with lots of demons facing me head-on. However, I began and continue to cultivate an inner strength and a confidence I never knew or recognised I had. Meditation has offered me the basis, stability and a springboard to create a life worth living and it continues to underpin my ability to cultivate joy, confidence and a positive mind…I have found the more comfortable I become within myself the more fulfilled my life feels.
What has meditation and living more mindfully awoken within me?
Breath: Through out my day I regularly stop and take deep breaths as well as at the beginning of my daily meditation practice. I am aware how the breath is a tool to settle my central nervous system and calm my mind.
Breath in I calm my mind...Breath out I relax my body
Mind: I am aware of how my thoughts impact on how I feel. Knowing this I am able to follow my conscious thoughts and have the power to choose to change them if they are having a negative effect on how i am responding to situations.
We are what we think...all that arises with our thoughts...we make the world - Buddha
Gratitude: I have a daily morning gratitude practice and I know what ever may be happening in my life there is always something positive to focus on.
When you have attitude of gratitude you wake up saying thank you - Maya Angelou
The present moment: I've learnt I am most comfortable when I focus my mind to be in the present moment, it has been a true gift to have this awareness.
Life is available in the present moment, if you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply - Thich Nhat Hanh
Gut instinct: I trust my intuition, if it feels right it is right, if it feels uncomfortable /wrong at that time it certainly always is. I have noticed my mind will try and question and manipulate the gut instinct so I've learnt to watch this process.
You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach? Listen to it - Sally Kathryn
Space: I know it's ok and important for my wellbeing to carve out daily space for myself in whatever way I need it to be.
You are as strong as your daily quiet time - Unknown
Timing and change: I have an understand everything comes and goes at the right time and recognise change is a natural way of life, however challenging it sometimes can be.
If it comes, let it. If it goes, let it - Unknown
Meditation has heightened my awareness and continues to be a close companion - a platform for my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. However there have been other practices and techniques along the way; in particular yoga and walking. I have also explored painting and drawing at intervals.
There are times (far fewer nowadays) when I feel myself moving away from the inner calm as life is to be lived. Sometimes I may step into situations or experiences that may arise, which can be unsettling or take me by surprise. However I am all too aware that I can return to my self through my breath, awareness and mindful meditation.
Written by Shelley Bloom