Understanding my own disquiet took many years. Happiness was always circumstantial. I would feel calm and relaxed immediately in the moments after my yoga class, or when everything aligned at certain moments of a day. But very quickly old patterns of struggle would return. I would again be pulled back to struggle street – comparing myself to others, with a constant stream of inner dialogue, moments of nervousness and sometimes all out anxiety. It all creates suffering.
The ancients of course understood that part of being human involves some level of suffering. The first of Buddha’s four noble truths is often translated as “life is suffering”. But there are practices to lead us away from the inevitable suffering of being human. Buddhism refers to a calmer, more lasting peace as a kind of ceaseless joy – a preferable substitute to forever seeking circumstantial happiness. It helps us to first see how we are in our travelling in our internal landscapes and then gives us the tools to traverse these towards more lasting contentment.
Mindfulness is an ancient technique to bring us closer to this joy, to bring our attention to the present moment. Simple, yet profound when practiced properly, it enables us to play witness to the moment exactly as it is happening around us and within us, with clarity and without getting caught up in the story of the mind.
The temptation is to reach for a drink or snack, to change position or change the metaphorical channel. Instead, mindfulness asks us to use the mood to enquire into our inner world. To see that through presence and kind attention, we can deliver more peace to the moment.
Cultivating this level of attention to the present almost always brings about more joy. This may be sitting around a table laughing, sharing a meal with friends or having a hug with beloved children before they go to sleep. As we feel a wave of anger move through the body or the grip of fear in the stomach, it can also be useful to connect with these moments rather than being consumed by them. Bringing mindfulness to more moments of life allows us to wake up and experience more fully, everyday moments, to enjoy the joyful moments as well as ride through the challenging ones with more grace.
Students often tell me that once they begin yoga and start to have some level of awareness, they feel an obligation to let go of anger, of jealousy, of road rage. This is a misunderstanding of the principles of this practice. Yoga is less about trying to live in a state of perpetual happiness, or perfection or control. It’s more about building the tools that keep us grounded, centred and able to recover from moments of anger or fear. Real mental health is about resilience, rather than seeking some idea of what happiness should feel like.
Some simple things you can do during your day to come back to the moment:Feel your feet on the ground or in your shoesRelax your body, soften your shoulders, mouth and jaw, lower belly.Take a deep breath in and out, notice your breathingFeel the air around your face or on your handsNotice the mood of your heart, how is it in there?Notice your mind stream, what is the quality of your mind right now?Try not to judge what you find or manage it in anyway, just feel it.Come back to your breath – be here now.Finding these anchors though your day can be like a ballast in the storm of life. The most beautiful moments in our day can be the simplest and by bringing these into focus we can experience real profundity and begin to find the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life.By Bryony Lancaster
Bryony is a qualified AcuEnergetics® Meditation Teacher. Bryony has been teaching Yoga for over ten years and is the owner and Director of Egg Of The Universe Yoga and Wholefoods Cafe. She enjoys how AcuEnergetics® and Yoga can compliment each other with such grace and is continually inspired by the teachings of Kevin Farrow. Similar to her yoga classes, Bryony guides people in meditation with a simple, structured and accessible style.