For a couple years, I spent Friday nights meditating with Buddhist practitioners at a local monastery. There was also teaching that went on during the sessions. When the head monk would teach, throughout his talk he would say, “practice, practice, practice”. Whether he was talking about being mindful or compassionate or forgiving… practice, practice, practice. And you know what? He was right! If you want to train the body to do certain things, and to keep doing those things at a high level of proficiency, you have to practice. The mind is the same way. Buddhism is about training the mind to think differently, to think in ways that reduce suffering in our lives. What do I mean by that? Well, like being grateful for what I have instead of complaining about what I don’t have. Or being “here”, but my mind is “there”. Or wants to be there. Or taking things personally. All these things cause a certain amount of suffering in my life that is unnecessary. After a while, that suffering adds up and can turn into depression or anger or resentment, etc.
I’ve been a martial artist for most of my life. I’m not getting any younger, so there are many things that I can’t do now that I could do in my 20’s. But, when I’m training on a regular basis, my mind is more alert, my reflexes are noticeably quicker, my body is more relaxed, and my overall attitude is better. It doesn’t take many days of not training for things to start to slip. I’ve found that it’s the same with my mind. If I’m not practicing mindfulness and gratitude and compassion, etc, I start to slip. There are signs of slipping. Oh yes! There are signs. LOL Crankiness, complaining, sighing, negative attitudes, and such. I’m not saying that you won’t have challenges if you are practicing training your mind on a daily basis. I’m not saying you won’t have cranky moments and sad moments and such. But it should keep you from days of suffering at a time. Yesterday was a day where it all came together and crashed. Looking back, yesterday’s crash had been coming for a few days. I handled a difficult morning fairly well, considering how the day started. But by the end of the day, I was miserable. I was dreading waking up today and facing what I thought I would be facing. I’m still not in a great place, but I’m better. Another thing I notice when I’m not practicing is that it takes me longer to get out of these funks. Sometimes it takes several days. And that’s no fun.
I do want to add that I don’t think there is anything wrong with any particular emotion. If I’m feeling sad or anxious or some other feeling that is not preferable, I normally just let myself feel it. I stay with that feeling, paying attention to it and allowing it to be. But that in itself is a practice in a type of mindfulness. And normally, the feeling passes without me actively trying to change it or get rid of it. If it doesn’t pass, that’s fine, too. But then I’m normally mindful about whatever else is going on and I find that the feelings and emotions always change. The last few days have been different than that. I’m finding that I’ve been swept away by the emotions and feelings and imaginings of my mind. None of which have been positive! And I’m reacting to the emotions that have swept me away. And those reactions have not helped me at all.
So, what do I do at this point? For me, I’ll start with the most basic thing. Paying attention to my breath. Even if just for a few inhales and exhales. I’ll first notice that I’m breathing. Then notice what it feels like on the inhale, and what it feels like on the exhale. Just typing and doing this has already helped me feel more calm and peaceful. After a while, I’ll practice something else. I’m not sure what that will be yet, but from a point of more calmness, I’ll know what I need to focus on next.
Whatever it is that you do to keep yourself in a good place, I encourage you to practice, practice, practice. 🙂