How to Stop Relentlessly Nagging Yourself
(Originally posted on EcologicalSelf.com)
She was looking at me quizzically with a little smile on her face. I felt there was something behind that smile. So I asked.
She said, “well, you are asking us to walk and attend to the sights and the sounds, the trees, the birds and all that – and all I want to do is think about the meeting I just came from and what happened, and to also consider my afternoon schedule and my to-do list after this session. And you are asking me to be right here, present to this experience when I have so many things to tend to! Its hard!”
That is it in a nutshell; it’s hard to allow oneself to be present. To be here, now. To drink in the beauty and joy of being present to a natural landscape. To REALLY be present, aware of the visual, auditory and kinaesthetic information coming in moment by moment.
And why do so? To feel alive, to experience life, to stop yearning for something more – when “more” is right here, right now.
We were on a Wellbeing Walkabout, a series of mindfulness walks I facilitate to reduce stress and increase wellbeing through authentic contact with nature.
My response to this lady was “well, all those thoughts will still be there for you when the session’s over. They will be right there to greet you. For now you could carve out a little moment in time to be here, to be present to the moment.”
In my own experience the hardest thing is actually carving out the time. There are various hurdles to overcome along the way.
The first one is justifying spending the time at all. We argue with ourselves. The internal dialogue might go something like this; “Great idea. Probably useful and good for my health. Yes, I’ve got to get the stress down, no doubt about it. But, really, do I have time right now? Isn’t there a whole huge list of priorities that I should be attending to? Can’t I be thinking about this for next week? Or, better yet, next month? I’m sure that next month, I will have cleared time from these important commitments in order to spend some time being present”.
Something like that. This is true even if you only need to get to a cushion in your own living room.
The second hurdle is to actually be there when you are there. The mind is still engaged with the to-do list and the conversation of last night and the item to pick up on the way home. Spinning along.
Only you are completely unaware that your mind is doing all these things. Because you are in them, your mind is weaving its own virtual reality on a constant basis. Every once in awhile you might “come to” and say to yourself “oh, I am here. How did I get here?” and then one is off again, spinning a cocoon of thoughts. Being somewhere else.
If we manage to “come to” just for a moment and hold onto that awareness of “oh I’m really here”. We then encounter the third barrier.
That is to allow ourselves the experience of being here, moment by moment. This one is a little easier because the illusion has already been pierced and you know that your mind’s virtual reality is actually an illusion of your own making.
At this point the mind is a bit like an untrained dog on a leash, pulling you along hither and thither. But now you know you are holding the leash. So the point is to start to train the mind, to bring it back. Back to “oh, yeah, I’m here again” – before you have formulated that as a thought, you just are. Here.
Doing this outside in nature is more rewarding, and easier, than sitting inside on a cushion. For one thing, there are an infinite number of things to attend to and delight in. All the senses can be engaged. Nature mirrors back the dynamic interactions, ever-changing nuances and energy of life. Being in nature generates a sense of vitality and aliveness.
Later on the Walkabout, when we were attending to inner sensations in our bodies, I heard this same participant laugh out loud to herself. She said “I feel so happy being here! I am in my body and it feels at times a bit uncomfortable, I am aware of the discomfort. But I am so happy to be in my body and to be here in this park! I’m am so glad to be here!”