(see 3/28 blog for part 1)
At its core, mindfulness is all about being present, living in the now. It’s origins of course go back to the Buddhist idea of being in the now and allowing it to just be. I take a bit of different stance in that, while I agree with it, I also believe that you need to be present, but with intent. I’ll come back full circle to what I mean by that in the concluding paragraphs.
The element of time, how it effects our lives and my evolving understanding and appreciation of its importance is a huge component of my philosophy of life and it played a huge role in the development
of “The Freedom to Recover”.
In the beginning of the book, I wrote an inspirational quote and I was torn deciding between two of them I had penned, literally up until the moment it went to print.
I still like the one that I went with;
“Altruistic and empathetic intent, followed by intuitive and thoughtful action, equals an authentic and meaningful life.”
The one that I almost went with, however, is very much in tune with the subject of mindfulness and went as
“Life is just a series of nows; the nows then, the now now and the nows that have yet to occur. Seize the one before you, for that is where life happens.”
I know, real deep, right? Anyway, back to the discussion at hand…..
Again to refresh the origin of this blog post, I read The mindfulness Breakthrough by Sarah Silverton, and I’m going to try and apply some of her ideas and my own in regards to how they may come into play for SOME people who are having alcohol/drug dependency issues.
On page 77 she mentions “BURYING YOUR HEAD IN THE SAND; You want to retreat from a difficulty and hope that, if you curl up and hide, it will have gone away by the time you emerge. But this difficulty is
going nowhere and is still there when you emerge again.”
I think that’s exactly what a lot of people do without realizing it when they are self-medicating their issues away. Actually after a while a many people do realize it but they either don’t care or in their mind they have no choice because it does offer temporary relief sort of, or it’s just become so habitual that they don’t even think about it. In any case, it’s an instinctual response for the desire to avoid pain or to diminish existing pain.
So where does this pain come from? There are many reasons and explanations but some cause include past trauma, anxiety, stress, poor life skills, faulty perceptions of the world and how it’s supposed to be, etc…..all can play a significant role.
Many of the issues are compounded when we are not in a mindful state and place too much weight on past events, perceptions and experiences or when we forecast future outcomes, events, relationships, etc….
When you are doing either or, you can’t help but pull yourself away from the moment that you are actually in.
Chapter 16 (Life happens now!) of my book is pretty much all about mindfulness and the element of time and I quote here rrom page 129;
“Whether it was something that happened years ago, moments ago, something that is about to happen or that will down the road, it all revolves around time. Remove time’s power and influence from your life and you will find it much less stressful.”
I’m going to revisit an idea that Sarah put forth about how we slip out of the present by writing scripts or stories about the past, present or future that aren’t based on what’s really happened, is happening or that necessarily will happen.
She uses a hypothetical situation where somebody is at home expecting a call from a friend but she doesn’t call, and how that event can be completely processed in ways that aren’t based on the truth of the situation.
I’m going to change it up a little and pose it this way. Let’s say that you’re fairly new to a job and you’ve developed a loose friendship with a co-worker and you really want to develop it beyond the work place and you suggest catching a movie together Friday night after work and that they should call you at 6:30PM to finalize meeting place, time, etc…. So 6:30 comes and no call, why not?
I’ll discuss what you should have done after posing some scenarios of what you might have done based on rash assessments based on the past, possible future outcomes and faulty analysis of how things really are right now. Thought based on the above could go down like this…..
“She only said yes to shut me up, she never had any intention of calling me. God, she probably doesn’t even like me and thinks I’m a loser” (False interpretation of present reality)
“I am a loser and don’t deserve her friendship, she’s so cool why would she want to hang out with me.” (Based on past judgment of self-worth and negative anticipation)
“Somebody more interesting asked her to do something and of course she would blow me off” (Based on past disappointments)
“She forgot, no way am I going to call her to see what’s up. I don’t want to be a pest.” (Based on faulty analysis of present reality)
You could make up a million different stories and conclusions, none of them based on the “real” story.
So what was the “real” story? It doesn’t matter but let’s say she just got caught up in traffic on the way home and that she actually does call at 6:45. Do you see what internal Hell you created for yourself by writing these untrue scripts in your head?
So what could we have done differently?
Sarah was addressing depression in this particular passage but what she poses on page 90 of her book also applies to this situation and she suggests that we should;
“Step back or De-centre. The moment we pause and have a look at how things are for us just now, we have taken a step out of the middle of the dense “fog” of depression”. We have found a different place that will give us a different perspective on our experience. The ability to pause, de-centre and explore what’s here can allow us to find that the fog isn’t all there is and it doesn’t go on for ever.
You need to learn how to detach, pause and evaluate based on what’s really before you. I’ll end this post with my take on detachment from page 128 of The Freedomto Recover;
"Detachment is the present’s most powerful tool.
So just how do we manage to stay present and live in the moment? One of the most effective tools for doing so is to cultivate the ability to detach yourself from what is happening. Detachment involves experiencing the moment by kind of observing what’s happening without a sense of personal ownership or responsibility. The emphasis is more on letting the events unfold as opposed to dictating how that will take place. It’s going
with the flow or rather, letting the flow happen. You still have a large part in it but it’s not ALL about you. You still have to go about living with a sense of purpose and intention but don’t get all caught up in the possible results. In other words, don’t get overly involved with how you got there (past) or what the outcome will be (future). Just do your part and let the rest happen on its own momentum. Life in many ways is a game and the old saying; “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” is spot on. If you are “thinking” about winning or losing, then you aren’t totally present in the game.
As far as present moment stress goes, it is also often the result of things not having gone your way (recent past). Again, nobody ever said that they were going to or that they were supposed to! The world just works that way sometimes. The world isn’t necessarily cruel and out to get you, it just is. At the end of the day, for the most part, the world just doesn’t care about every little decision we have to make. As human beings, we
are the only species that is smart enough or maybe as the case may be, dumb enough, to think that it should! If you become more proficient in practicing detachment, then stress won’t have anywhere to enter the equation. If you are totally present then there is no room for the past and future and the stress that comes along with it.