Past – Present – Future

It is a common misconception that mindfulness is all about living in the present moment.

It is something that I have had some struggles with over the last few years.    Trying to remain present 24-7 is pretty impossible, believe me I have tried. It is exhausting and not particularly effective.

Practising mindfulness is so much more than being present.  It is also and more importantly, about our relationship to the past, the present and the future.    It is about awareness, seeing clearly your thought patterns and loops of behaviour and putting that bit of space in, so that you are able to react and respond in a considered manner.

Thoughts about mindfulness in relation to the past, present and future seem to crop up a lot in people’s practice and life, so I thought it would be interesting to delve into it a little further

The Past

The past has brought us here to this very point in time.  It has formed who we are right now.  The past could be the breath we took before this one, or it could be an event that happened twenty years ago. It has happened, it is gone.

I have noticed something very interesting in my relationship to the past since practising mindfulness.

1) I don’t visit it half as often as I used to.

2) I look back more fondly, with more compassion at the special moments that have formed who I am today.

3) I don’t deny the negative parts of my past, but I don’t dwell on them as much anymore.  It has been and gone and just maybe within those so-called negative points in life, a valuable lesson has been learnt.

Mindfulness can help us to be much more aware of how we relate to the past and to notice when we are stuck in the past and lost in things that have gone. It can also help us to be more comfortable with the transient nature of our lives.

a) Take the time to notice your thoughts about the past.  In meditation or just in your everyday life, try labelling your thoughts.  If you become aware of a thought, say to yourself past, present or future.  Soon you will build a picture of where your thoughts go.  Being mindful of your thoughts like this can help you to notice your natural inclination to the past, present or future.  You can then take appropriate and considered steps to adjust the thought pattern and behaviour.

b) Try not to deny or push away your past. Hold it lightly in awareness, remember that from this moment, the past cannot be changed or altered. The past is now just a thought or a memory.

c)Remember that the practice is to loosen the grip and not so much of the pushing and pulling.  Hold it lightly, watch where your thoughts go, are you constantly remembering the negative things? or are more of those special moments cropping up.

d) Be aware of any judgements that crop up about your past and let them go.

Slowly and very gently over time, the practice of awareness can alter the way we view our past and the amount of time our mind wanders back there.

The present

Okay, the big one.  The lovely, beautiful, present moment. It came as a bit of a shock to me when I started to become more aware of my mind wanderings, how little time I spend in the present moment.  My mind liked and still does like to time travel.  This is the same for most of us.  We may look like we are here but in our heads we are flying around like Doctor Who in his Tardis.

The present moment to me is like pressing a big reset button.  The more we practice mindful awareness, the more this present moment starts to become like a default setting and somewhere we can come back to in order to feel more grounded.

This is not to say that the present moment is always this blissful place of peace and happiness, on the contrary it can be challenging and not always pleasant.  However, if we are closely aware of it, we can start to notice that a lot of the unpleasantness and unease actually comes from the past or the future, not this very moment.

If I am aware of this very moment, actually all is well, I am breathing (yippee), the computer is working (at last), my fingers are hitting the right keys on the keyboard (most of the time), George is curled up on the bed behind me and I have a cup of tea ready to drink. Not always but very often it is the thoughts of past and future that get mixed up with the present moment.  In turn, that can cause the unpleasantness and that sense of unease that is felt very much in the present moment.

a) Find your anchor.  What is going to bring you back to this present moment?  For me, I have yet to find a more effective anchor than the breath.  Simple life-giving breath.  More than just taking a deep breath, feel the air coming in to the nostrils, imagine it flooding into the lungs, feel your belly rise and fall, get intimate with it, this very breath, right now.  Your signature anchor is going to help you return to the present, it could be feeling your feet on the floor, or just simply looking up into the sky and watching the clouds roll by.

b) Make tuning into your anchor a daily practice.  Even if it is just for 5 minutes a day, tune in, use your anchor to be firmly planted in the present moment.  If you meditate, make your anchor your starting point that sets your intention to your mindfulness meditation practice.

C) What words do you associate with the present moment?  immediately I think of simplicity, beauty and peace.  It is worth taking the time to consider what the present truly means to you and let it sink into your mind.

d) Be gentle but firm.  Judging and giving yourself a hard time for not being present is going to make it feel like a battle.  I love the analogy of it being like training a puppy, they learn with patience, kindness and just a little bit of firmness, as does the mind.  If you become aware that your mind has wandered, gently bring it back to your anchor.  It is okay, our minds will wander, that is a fact of life, but when you fall in love again with the present moment, whenever you come back to it,  it will be like slipping into a warm bath or those comfy pyjamas after a long day (or whatever floats your boat)

Future

I have recently gained a new perspective on the future thinking mind.  I am sure I have subconsciously thought about the future but I have tried to make a conscious effort to not go there.   I have noticed that I have linked future thoughts with a sense of unease, an anxiety felt in the body.   So it was easy for me to judge these future thoughts as bad.

All this however has been thrown upside down in quite a positive way.  As a trainee life and performance coach, a lot of the work I am going to be doing is to help people reach a goal or future state that they have in mind.

You can imagine how this made my left eye twitch a little.  I mean how does that fit into my mindfulness work and this present moment thinking.

As always with this practice, it takes a little while to see the answers.  It came to me in one of my study classes.  It was all about goal setting…

“Always frame your coachee’s future goals in the positive”  

Our minds are naturally skewed to see the negative.  How often I would build a picture of the future and how things could go wrong, what disasters could happen and how I could end up in a fine old mess.  No wonder there was a sense of unease and a lack of motivation to proceed.

Very similar to the past, we can mindfully deal with the future in a similar way. Thoughts about the future can be really helpful, they can help us grow as a person, change our lives for the better and give us a sense of momentum.  As always it is more about our relationship to future thinking that can trip us up.

a)The future is yet to happen, the thoughts we have about it are just that, they are just thoughts not reality.  It sounds simple, but being aware of our thoughts about the future can be the key to working with it effectively.

b)Be aware of when you are following those familiar patterns of rumination about the future.  Use your present moment anchor to come back in order to  try a different approach.

c) What is the reality of the situation now?  Mindfulness can help us see what the true reality of any situation is, without the mental overlay of rumination.  From this reality point we can clearly see what options we have available and make positive steps forward.

d) Could you try looking at the future a little differently?  After all it hasn’t happened yet, you may as well try to imagine it in a more positive way.

e) Are you aware of how much time your mind spends thinking about the future? Be it in a positive way or a negative way, if are minds are always thinking about the future, our journey of life can be missed.  The future can only play out from this very moment. It is truly, the only moment we have.

f) As with the past, hold it lightly, gently with some compassion. Try being more curious.  Your mind will wander and that is okay.  Be aware of its wanderings , label your thoughts and come back to the present.  Notice the negative thoughts and try reframing them in the positive.

An exploration

This isn’t a one size fits all, we all have different thought patterns and relationships to the past, present and future, it is just my own take on it.

At times it can feel like we are at battle with life. I think it can then pay to look at how we are relating to the past, present and future.  To be more curious about our thought patterns and to take an exploration into what we think about and how much time we actually spend in the present moment.

No one area can be denied, I have learnt that the hard way.  Mindfulness and meditation isn’t about blotting out the past, ignoring the future and clinging on to the present moment.  It is more about taking an exploration, being curious, holding it all in awareness and seeing clearly how we relate to certain aspects of life, without judgement and with a nice big dose of compassion.

I wish you well. As always, be kind to yourselves, enjoy the exploration and take good care.

From Roger

 

 

True Self

A note from True Self

It is time to remove the masks, those masks you made over many years.

Not just that one, but the others as well.

It is okay, I know it can feel a little raw,

please take your time, please be kind to yourself.

This is you, the real you, I am here waiting, I have always been here waiting for you.

Look no further, seek no more.

There is nothing else you have to become,

nowhere else you have to go.

Sit, listen, be still.

Watch with curiosity this thing we call life.

I will be revealed in the sunsets, the birds singing, the feeling of your feet touching the earth.  All those simple, beautiful moments.

I will be waiting in those quiet times, those times you go to sit, those times when you practice this awareness.

Waiting with a big smile and open arms,

Don’t be fooled by those masks that you wear,

there is a freedom here, here with me, your true self.

The window

The mind whirls, the cogs ticking. I think about what this all means.  What is this mindful life? how can I analyse it? how can I put it into words?  Nothing comes, the words are there but I can’t quite string them all together so I stop and look out of the window.  I have moved my little desk upstairs, in front of the window that looks out to the back, over the houses to the edge of the town and the trees on the hill.

My mind tells me this is wrong, you can’t just sit and stare out of the window, a memory flashes up so vivid now. That day I was sat in History class. I was bored so was staring out of the window, out to the school playing field and the trees beyond. I got told off by the teacher.

A little voice inside starts to speak, it is a voice that used to be so, so quiet. I could never hear it but over the last few years  its got a bit louder.  It is a voice of compassion, gentle, warming, kind and from the heart.

“You are here my friend not there, it is gone, all is ok. That feeling of wrong is just a memory.   What was wrong then, is not wrong now”

I look out of the window, here in this moment. I look over the rooftops to the trees on the hill, branches all bare hibernating for winter, their tops gently swaying in the breeze.

A plane passes overhead and in that moment a flock of birds soar up from one of the trees and then disappear out of view. Three big pigeons waddle across the top of a roof.

Beyond, the clouds roll by in colours of grey, blue, white and yellow.  It starts to rain, little droplets forming on the window, the pitter-patter sound on the roof above.

Simple, nothing special, so easy to miss but oh so beautiful.

What is this mindful life? The words still haven’t come, but here in this very moment looking out of the window, a feeling of joy bubbles up inside.

Maybe it needs no words, just an experience. A fleeting moment in time.  It can’t be grasped at, held on to, intellectualised and dissected.

A window, a little moment in time.

Maybe it is just this.

 

 

 

Change – An exploration of life meditation

Change

We hold on tight, push and pull, manipulate and scheme,

anything to avoid losing the familiar, however good or bad the familiar may be.

When change comes along, we build a fortress to protect ourselves and then realise we have locked ourselves in  prison and thrown the keys through the door.

When uncertainty prevails, we follow the familiar paths, the well trodden road.

Closing down the heart, clinging on for dear life.

But what if there was a different way, a different road.

A road with less tension, less pulling and pushing.

A road that allows us to sit back a moment and process the emotions.

A sadness, a joy, a fear, all emotions that just want to be experienced,

Not manipulated but felt for what they are.

Take a long…. slow….deep breath,

this is it, just pause, rest in this very moment, in this reality.

From here, every moment can be seen with new eyes.

The emotions we can feel but not battle with.

 

This is not a case of mind over matter,

the challenges are real, change is inevitable.

but from this space of awareness, this little moment in time, this little pause,

things become a little clearer, our options greater, we see more solutions and realise we can adapt and be creative in the most challenging of times.

Un-clench the fists, let go of the tight grip

Just watch and observe, be curious,

Hold your life gently like a bird resting in the palm of your hand…

 

Waiting

What are we waiting for?

For so long I found myself waiting,

waiting for a better life,

waiting for more money,

waiting until I have got this mindfulness thing a bit more,

waiting until I am little older and wiser

waiting for the clouds to clear,

waiting for peace and calm,

waiting for something, anything to happen,

waiting before I can fully live this life.

What a false illusion. In waiting for all the cards to line up perfectly, I missed living.

I missed the fact that I was breathing, awake, alive, vital.

I missed the fact that life isn’t always perfect and that imperfection is ok.

I missed the smell of fresh coffee (my favourite),

I missed the birds singing

I missed so many sunsets.

Words cannot adequately describe it, all that is left is this.

I’ve given up waiting, I hope you will do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to life

Life and awareness

As I sit and write today my attention keeps being drawn to the little puddle that is being formed on the patio outside the door. The rain is falling at a steady rate, drumming on the glass and roof, each raindrop forming a ripple of perfect circles in the puddle, the sky reflected in its surface. Simple,  absolute perfection.

You may wonder if I have gone a little strange staring at a puddle and wonder why I make such a big deal of it, but it is oh so easy to miss in our quest for something grander, something bigger.  So easy to by-pass in our striving, plotting and planning.

Simple present moment awareness, I missed it for years, it passed me by.

Even when I started this mindful exploration of life and journey into mindfulness and meditation, my mind played a little trick to push me out of the present moment.  It showed me a little snap shot picture of what it thought life would be like in the future, when “I had got it”.

A calm mind, bliss, peace, no stress, oh how wonderful it would be.

Many times I wondered why it wasn’t working. Many times I nearly gave up. Many times I felt uncomfortable.

I staked my happiness on some future ideal, which was just an illusion.

My practice changed when I settled  into  fully accepting what is here, right now. Be that to get rid of my racing mind, stress, bliss, peace, whatever, I stopped chasing it.

It is subtle but made a huge difference.  I stopped meditating to become different.

We meditate to be who we already are, to be right here, right now, awake and vital, our natural self, nothing added, nothing taken away.

Swallowing a bitter pill

This can be a bitter pill to swallow. I know we sometimes desperately want to change, to escape from the present moment but we find the harder we push it away, the harder it pushes back.

The truth is, there is no other moment, this is all we have. This is our work, right here, right now.

Not always comfortable, not always easy, but when we turn our attention to the present moment, it can open us up to moments of wonder and beauty.

When we make this subtle change of acceptance we can start to be satisfied with just being.  For me it was like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, a big sigh of relief.

We may find that the things we chase such as happiness, peace, a calm mind etc.. we no longer have to go out looking for them, they come to us.

Which takes me back to that little puddle, simple present moment awareness.

Our minds can race away but in this moment is a little bit of peace, a space where we can rest a little while…..

Lets rest here a while, in this moment,
in this space between stimulus and response
a space of peace.
With nowhere else to go but right here, right now, this is the only moment we have.
There is no-one else we need to become other than who we are right now, right here.
Simple awareness, simple perfection,
sometimes the most profound is found in the most simple.
Thanks to life
Thanks to life

Surrender to the call for deep rest

“In the silence it will appear, wait, be patient, all will be revealed”

I don’t mind admitting that this time of year usually leaves me feeling exhausted.  December and the beginning of January is the busiest time of year at work, I am usually leaving the house long before the sun has risen and returning long after it has set.

Previous years have seen me battle this busyness, pushing away the tiredness, denying it, avoiding it, wishing it away.  Sure enough, the more I pushed it away the harder it pushed back!   Sleep and rest would become impossible as my mind raced with thoughts of the future and regrets about the past, little stories playing over and over, a sure sign of a tired mind.

So often we try to run away from our emotional states, we run and run and think  we have got away from them, only to turn a corner and see them standing right there in front of us, we may repeat this time and time again.  I know I have, it took me years to realise maybe there is a different way.

What if we stop running and pause.  What if we turn to our emotions as if they are an old friend, helping us, telling us what we need to hear, showing us the way, pointing us to our own inner voice, our guide, our intuition.

A few days ago I turned and greeted the tiredness, I opened the door and invited it in, I surrendered to its call for deep rest. I gave it permission to be here, thanked it for telling me what I needed.  In that acceptance something new began to form, a sense of peace, a place of contentment.

That night, I had the deepest sleep, a good ten hours solid.  I woke up to the feeling that my mind had been filing things away all night, clearing and sorting.  I felt fresh and deeply rested.

Sometimes our emotional states are trying to tell us something, they wont let up until we listen, until we fall silent, until we pause.

A guide to deep rest

  1. It sounds strange but give yourself permission to do nothing.  Often we find an excuse to run, to carry on.  There is always something to do, somewhere to go, but right now give yourself permission to stop, to breathe, to pause.
  2. Sit in quiet meditation for 10 to 15 minutes a day, this is your time.  you don’t need to practice a certain technique, just sit there, be aware of your breath coming in and going out.  Allow whatever thoughts, feelings or emotions to be there, you don’t need to change them, right now you don’t need to do anything.  Allow thoughts and feelings to come and go.  If you find yourself getting lost in a thought or stuck in an emotion, come back to the breath, back to just sitting.
  3. Say no to those unnecessary commitments, give yourself some space, some time to reflect, some time to pause.
  4. Sleep.  There are some great guided sleep meditations on the free App insight timer. Give your mind the deep restorative sleep it needs to recover from the busyness of life.
  5. Accept yourself just as you are.  You are amazing and unique, its okay to feel low but be kind to yourself, be your own best friend.  Be gentle.

 

“Gently, Gently, somehow the spirit of gentleness tells us what we need.  With a gentle strength, a gentle courage, we see our thoughts unmasked.  Like the clouds in the sky and the ripples in the water, they come, they go”

The Mind Shed

 

A new beginning

May you find a peace that no person or situation can alter,

may you find a kindness to accept yourself just as you are,

amazing and unique.

Every moment a new beginning, every step, every breath.

I wish you well for 2018

 

A break in the cloud

A little break in the cloud,

just enough to see the light beyond,

right now, right here, that is enough.

Enough to slow things down,

Enough to open our hearts,

Enough to root us here in the present moment, to make us feel alive.

We can hold it all gently in awareness,

Our thoughts unmasked, seen for what they are, just thoughts.

Like the clouds floating by in the sky, never still, constantly changing,

If only we let them go on their way.

Underneath is a beautiful space, a quiet stillness, a bright light.

A Little break in the cloud

It is enough, it is all we sometimes need.

Roger Hunt

Thank you for reading my words, I wish you a wonderful holiday.
Roger x

 

Time and patience

“Have patience, plant your feet firmly on the ground. Wait for the tide to ebb away and there you will be, where you have always been but you didn’t know it. Right here on the shore, unwavering, happy and more alive than ever “

Journal entry December 2015

This journal entry always makes me smile.  Odd because it was a particularly painful period of my journey into mindfulness but it was as if the answer was calling out to me at the time, wait, be patient, all will be well.

Mindfulness and meditation can be pretty difficult at times. When I first started practicing, I desperately wanted to get rid of pain, anxiety and stress.  I thought that I had the answer to all of this.  I would sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day and all my dreams would come true.  Little did I know.

Around about the time of this journal entry, I was really struggling to meditate, my legs would go stiff, I would get cramp and it was a test of will to carry on with it, my mind completely distracted.

Luckily there was something inside telling me to just be patient, to stick with it, that this is a lesson, there is something to be learnt from sticking with it.  I put my trust into the practice and let it do its work.

It is so beautiful, so vibrant, so vital, I find it hard to put into words at times.   Mindfulness and meditation can turn your world around if you just allow it.

It has taught me that my mind is chaotic at times and that is ok, that’s just how it is.  It also has taught me that my mind also wants the chance to be peaceful and to examine what it is like to just be at peace, to just breathe or to just listen to sounds. Simple and beautiful.

It has taught me that I am stronger than I think I am.  If the proverbial hits the fan, whether it be in meditation or in everyday life, I am much more comfortable now just letting it be, to just stick with  it and be patient and wait for the tide to ebb away.

My initial desire for the practice to rid me of all the aches and pains of life  like some sort of end goal, well the practice turned that all upside down.  It has helped me to see that the aches and pains are all part of life.  Anxiety and stress still come, but my relationship to them has changed.  I am not clinging on to them as much or trying to push them away. There is less of a battle going on, they come and go like clouds rolling by in the sky.

Occasionally they will take over and  I find myself in the old spiral downwards, but the difference is I can can see it happening and can take steps to come back, a kindness and compassion kicks in.  It is the practice at work.

My regular readers will know this, but over time the story gets quieter, my posts have probably got shorter, things get simpler.

In truth I have found it harder to write about this year, there is a simple beauty in this practice that words cannot adequately provide.  It is completely experiential.  Truth and wisdom emerges from the silence. If there is a constant narrative going on, or lots of chatter going on in my mind, I know I need to practice some more.

So the end of a year, I thank the practice for the things it has taught me, the things it allows me to see so clearly.  There is more to come I know, always will be, this is a practice that will stay with me for life.

“If the tide comes back in, you will always know now what is underneath.  Plant your feet firmly on the ground, be patient, what is underneath those waves, beneath the commotion, is something quite beautiful”

Journal entry December 2017