The door finally shut. I walked away, my throat numb and eyes firmly to the ground. It was that time again. My role of ‘Daddy’ had come to an abrupt end.
Against the wish to scream and shout, I turned my ignition towards the other life. Noticing my mind wandering into gloom, I gently escorted my attention back to the breath … 50, 60, 70 miles per hour … and I was gone.
Mindfully noticing the tightness around the quarter of my chest, I began breathing into that area of the body. Slowly, and at times agonizingly, my heart began to expand, as if each breath was tainted with a little hope.
There were only 10 days until I would be reunited with my baby. Adrift in my emotional ocean, I quickly had to throw myself a lifejacket before I drowned in grief. Thankfully, I had my practice, although at times I wasn’t wholly buoyant.
You see, mindfulness is possibly the only reason I did not turn to cigarettes or alcohol that night, and although sometimes I do, I am aware enough to note that this just makes my inner world feel worse.
Not that I am claiming to have an addiction problem, although I can plainly see that thinking negatively is the biggest hit I get. A clearer mind full of pain, yet free from intoxicants, is better than a painful mind absorbed in its own stupor.
If only it was that simple. Being mindful throughout the good, the bad and the ugly is not an easy feat. Presence is all we have to help us navigate through the jungle, and at times, into the snake’s jaw.
Presence is all we have to help us navigate through the jungle, and at times, into the snake’s jaw.
Over time, my equanimity has given me a decentred approach to my own emotional experience. But at other times, it’s all just too arduous. The trick is to remind my mindful self that mindlessness only makes it harder.
The balancing act of surrender, along with hope and the knowledge of impermanence, means I am free to experience another day. How I choose to experience that day depends on whether I have enough awareness about me to remain conscious. Having enough grit, resilience and determination to faithfully know presence is my only path.
In the moment I am here, awake, observant and tranquil. Out of the moment, I am a habit-fuelled gratification fanatic. The tightrope is set and the curtains have been drawn.
Mindfulness and equanimity are the only ways for me to walk the rope. I need to be aware of how my simple likes and dislikes charge my feelings, how my feelings alight my thoughts and emotions like a bonfire, and how that blaze can spread like wildfire if not managed with care. To be in a state of awareness full of self-compassion and compassion for others—that is the only way of ‘walking the talk’ on a moment-to-moment basis.
But you know, tightrope walking is a skill and treading water is exhausting. It’s demanding and you will fall off, and occasionally you will go under. But be kind to yourself. Make sure you have people around you and plenty of islands to swim to.
Lifejacket in an ocean
In sadness, I often remind myself to stop being the victim of my own circumstances and to reflect on the fact that every tiny microscopic event I experience is because I have made it so.
There is no need to despair or be enraged with the external world. If I vow to meet the chaos with my own acceptance that I am the ’causer’ of the cause, then it feels slightly more palatable.
Yet, in the moment, when my emotional world is flamboyant, how far adrift I am from that simple sentiment. Here I am, drowning not waving, and the only hope is to throw myself that jacket, to wave directly into the eye of the torrent.
For me, that is the greatest gift mindfulness has to offer. It acts as the lifejacket in our ocean. To intuitively feel that everything is impermanent, which means refining the jacket into a boat and then a luxury cruise ship, will take time.
Grow your mindfulness into the sun and learn to watch the water from afar.
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Joey Weber is a university lecturer who is doing a Ph.D. in equanimity. He has spent a lifetime walking the tightrope between mindfulness and mindlessness. He is a trained mindfulness teacher at wellseeingconsultancy.co.uk and was brought up in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery! Read more of his writing on his blog, The Mindful Tiger.
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