An essential part of being mindful is being present with your thoughts and feelings at any given moment. Some people regard mindfulness and meditation techniques as having to be clear of thoughts, have an empty mind, and be at peace. Whilst there is an element of this involved, this tends to come about as a result of practice. Even then, learning to be at peace with your thoughts and feelings in the moment, rather than having an empty mind, is key to being mindful.
It is not always possible to have an empty mind! The difference between being preoccupied with the thoughts and emotions buzzing within you, and the ability to observe the thoughts and emotions you are feeling, lies in how you perceive them. Learn to tap in to your feelings in a situation. Ask yourself if you feel that this is a healthy state; do you need to reset; or if there is an emergency brewing:
healthy: Being at peace in the moment – feeling calm, in control, happy with what’s going on within/around you
reset: Noticing that you are feeling uncomfortable, agitated, stressed or other emotions which are having a negative effect on you or those around you, and taking mindful steps to set up to a healthy state of mind again
emergency: have you hit the “panic button” – feeling out of control, scared, angry, or other emotions that are making you feel on high alert, impacting on your behaviour and thoughts
Being in the healthy state doesn’t mean having an empty mind: it means being able to accept the thoughts that you are experiencing, without allowing the attachment of emotions to dominate how you react to these thoughts. In other words, learn to separate the feelings associated with a negative thought. See the thought as a cloud, or imagine you are looking at the picture as an observer, rather than being drawn into the drama of the image or thought. Learn to feel at peace with the thought.
If you sense that your peace is becoming upset, pay attention to how you have set-up the situation. What do you need to change to feel healthy in your mind, again?
Don’t hit the red button: Hit the reset button, instead!
Nikki Harman is a nurse working in the NHS; and mindfulness and meditation tutor to adults and children. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about courses or sessions either face to face or over Skype.