I never really understood mindfulness before. I just didn’t have the patience for it and couldn’t see the benefits of just ‘being’ in the moment.
It seemed like I’d be taking myself into a vacuum (and one I didn’t particularly enjoy for that matter) to purposely separate myself from the past and the future. It was far away from the adrenaline rush I could trigger and enjoy by keeping myself in action.
But I heard it was a useful thing, something that others had got a lot out of and so I attended some mindfulness training about five years ago. I was aware of being often overcome by anxiety and I hoped it might be the silver bullet to help me cope better, the key to finding more calm in my life.
But to be honest it just really annoyed me and I didn’t stick it out.
The pace of it was just too…mindful. A slow wander through understanding how my body reacts to stress and learning body scanning meditations that I’d then feel bad about not completing during the week because of being too busy but, most important, not enjoying being trapped watching my worries and anxiety unfurl around me.
But recently I was given to book by a friend.
A book about the power I’ve being quiet and still and connecting to what’s going on in this very moment (it’s called ‘silence‘ if you’re interested).
And I started to see the benefit of being more present in the moment. The benefit of not getting dragged into stories that I tell myself about the past or worrying about the future.
Perhaps it’s made bearable because I’ve changed – I’m kinder to myself, I put less pressure on myself to attain some arbitrary, inhuman standard of perfection. And perhaps it’s because all I can do is surrender to and find peace in the moment in this world full of chaos, a world where things are absolutely outside of my control.
I think, looking back, pre-covid-19, I felt like everything was in my control.
If I just tried damn hard enough pretty much anything was possible.
But living through a pandemic where lives are being lost to such a serious illness has made me aware that all we have is this moment.
It sounds trite, but it was actually a revelation to realise and to keep on discovering the solidity that comes from being aware that all I have is this moment.
And this moment here with me now.
And this moment.
And so I started to practice my own cobbled together version of mindfulness, focusing on my breath as I lie next to my son at night when he was going to sleep.
Practicing not ruminating on past events or projecting into the future but instead just breathing in and paying attention to my senses. What I could hear in the moment, what I could feel physically in this moment, what I could hear, what I could smell.
Or sometimes I imagine myself as little girl Amy, sat on the same bench as the current version of myself. Just watching the moments go by, the thought patterns circle around like waves on the shore.
Knowing that I only have this moment shores me up against the batterings of anxiety and worry.
This afternoon, just before coming to a late work shift, I was sat in a nook I’ve created for myself at home, meditating and having a moment of peace.
In the middle of the meditation, I found myself feeling a weight of sadness and worry. It’s not something I can attribute to a particular thing, but it is a mix of anxiety about the future we’re facing and worries that I’m not doing enough.
I could have cried or got sucked into the story of how I wasn’t enough and my impending future of being found out to be a fraud and ruining the world with my lack of ‘correct’ and ‘perfect’ action.
But instead, I found myself being reminded by something greater than me to ask how I was in the moment I had. And I found the weight of anxiety and sadness lift from me when I realised in that moment that I was well.
I was in a safe space, physically well, in a moment of peace and without the burden of any responsibility on me.
What power, what grace, to be reminded that I only have this very moment in time.
We only have this moment.
I’ve been toying with recording my own meditations, here is a quick 4 minute mindfulness meditation in case you’d like to give stillness a go: