Tips and thoughts on how to have a great life.
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on October 19, 2017 at 3:30 PM||comments (0)|
The Difference Between Mindless and Mindful – what daily meditation did to my internal dialogue.
Inside my head there is a demanding individual who passes comment on everything, tells me I’m stupid, worries about making mistakes, upsetting people, looking foolish and not being liked. Sometimes I listen to her, I didn’t know she was there for a long time because I actually thought, she was me. I am so glad I have found the space to know the difference now. This is the what the difference between Mindless and Mindful means for me.
In the grand scheme of things, I haven’t been meditating formally very long. I only started to formally meditate about 8 years ago. I had engaged in other guided meditations and unbeknownst to myself I was using it with students but I called it guided relaxations. Actually siting down, to formally practice, didn’t start until the end of 2009, and a regular daily practice took a bit longer, a common occurrence when people first start to meditate. I am now classed as a long-term meditator, in scientific research terms, as I have completed between 1000 and 10,000 hours of meditation, less than that is considered beginner and over 10,000 is a yogi, although you also have to have a 3 year retreat under your belt for that one. You can check out more on this in Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson’s book Altered Traits.
My main practice has always been some form of Mindfulness or Vipassana. I meditate every day for at least an hour but most days I do two sittings one an hour and a second for 30 minutes. Sometimes I go all out and do between two and four hours but that doesn’t happen too often. The changes that occurred in me were subtle at first and sometimes there were huge leaps in my practice and other times it seemed like nothing was happening at all. Recording the changes in a journal when I trained as an instructor was hugely helpful as it forced me to really pay attention to how each meditation went and what I noticed afterwards. I had to do this every day for 6 months, you really get to know yourself doing something like this and you also become aware of the negative self-talk that tells you it’s too much of a challenge or you are too tired, or nothings is happening so what’s the point.
Some of the most notable changes that have occurred for me is the changes to my self-talk and my ability to be aware of it as I’m speaking, this is often referred to as the Watcher. I never realised how much internal dialogue I had until I noticed it was gone one day. I often refer to this as ‘the day I went deaf’. Of course, I didn’t go deaf but I did experience a profound silence that was totally new and although it was still elusive and not always present, I knew I had the capacity to experience it again.
As, I write this there is cat on my lap vying for my attention, it is hard not to be pulled into the present moment when your wrist is being licked as you type.
So back to the silence, when I meditate now I find there are large periods where I simply experience my breath. Other times I find myself planning or preparing things in my mind, that was my default for years, or I get caught up in a dialogue about something that happened or is about to happen. Like I said, I didn’t know I was such an internal talker until it was gone. I would talk through everything, movies, as I read, attending courses, while people were talking. Internally I was probably one of the rudest people you could meet and I didn’t even know it. Thankfully, now I can stop myself quickly as soon as the chatting starts. Sometimes I’m off on a tangent before I realise but, more often than not, I catch myself before any real discussion begins. It was only yesterday, as I prepared the dinner, that I noticed I wasn’t thinking at all, I actually had the faintest whisper of song and nothing else. Of course, noticing means I’m thinking again but at least I notice now, I never did before.
The other change to my internal dialogue is subject matter. My thinking now is more practical and less critical. I find myself to be kinder so, the judging myself has stopped. Now I am more accurate in my assessment of what I am doing, more forgiving of my mistakes and much more open to feedback. This is quite a relief. I am definitely becoming more mindful and I have the different meditations I practice, to thank for that.
I know above I said I was classed as a long-term meditator but to me I am still a beginner. I teach it because I love it and because it has changed my life but I know I can never stop practicing and learning and as the months and years go by new changes will emerge and the better I will be at being in the present moment, that’s the plan anyway.
Thanks for reading, Elfreda
|Posted by Elfreda Manahan-Vaughan on October 12, 2017 at 7:35 AM||comments (0)|
Books to Read for Personal Transformation No. 3
It’s been a few weeks since I wrote one of these so, I thought I share with you one of my latest additions to my bookshelf. It’s not very often that I read a book twice in a row but the following one is a book that was not only so enjoyable but also inspiring and as soon as I finished it I started it again. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life by Mark Manson is not only irreverent, as the title suggests, but also filled with nuggets of wisdom about life and how to choose better things to give a f*ck about.
Mark Manson writes in a style that is easy to read and he shares much of his own failings and mistakes as he brings you on a journey from feeling unhappy about your lot to realising you always have a choice. Manson maintains that no matter what you do you always have to choose what to care about because even if you choose not to care, you are still caring about that. If you have to choose, then you need to become more aware of what you are placing your time and attention on and begin to choose to care about the things that are really important.
If you spend your time being angry because you are stuck in a queue or because things aren’t going your way at work or at home, then perhaps you should reconsider what you are focusing on. Manson believes you have to acknowledge your responsibility, not because things are your fault but because your reaction always is your responsibility. He believes we often confuse fault with having to apportion blame and so we miss out on the fact that we still have to take responsibility for our thinking and behaviour, even if the events that lead up to us, initially, feeling a particular way was not our fault.
One of the things I liked most about this book is his discussion on the modern sense of entitlement. ‘The pampering of the modern mind has resulted in a population that feels deserving of something without earning that something, a population that feels they have a right to something without sacrificing for it’. I guess what I really liked about his narrative on entitlement is the way he breaks it down. He believes we all feel entitled. If you have been given everything you needed and wanted as a child, then you grow up expecting that to continue throughout your life. If you grew up the opposite, faced with hardship or challenge, then you still feel entitled because you believe you should have some form of compensation. Manson thinks this impacts all of our relationships because we develop an assumption that we are special in some way.
In the chapter, You Are Not Special, he says entitlement plays out in two ways:
1. I’m awesome and the rest of you all suck, so I deserve special treatment.
2. I suck and the rest of you are all awesome, so I deserve special treatment.
This also forces us to focus on what he calls exceptionalism. This occurs when you start to believe that you should be special or exceptional and you get caught up in thinking that people we are exposed to in the media are the rule, and not the exception. However, if we were all the same then no one would be extraordinary at all, and so Manson thinks we should just be happy with average because once we free ourselves up from trying to be the best then ‘your body will wake up feeling more potent and more alive’. ‘You will have growing appreciation for life’s basic experiences: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book, laughing with someone you care about.’
When we choose what to care about, and realise being ordinary is ok, we can lead a simpler and certainly less stressful life. If this something you would enjoy, then I definitely recommend you read this book.
Thanks for reading, Elfreda