A young child recently asked me who the Buddha was, as he peered curiously at a picture. I found myself grappling with how to say something that would make sense to him, and that would also be true. and useful.
I ended up saying the picture was there as a reminder to be truthful with ourselves, and to stay calmly open and loving, despite whatever we might feel. We sat and breathed together for a moment, and they then recommenced the fast pace of life usual for a person so small.
The incident got me reflecting on being truthful and calm, and what that actually means. Sometimes Mindfulness is talked about as a way of becoming calm, peaceful and still, as if that is the opposite of being disturbed and tormented, or busy and excited. This would indicate it helping you change your state of mind from one thing to another. In my experience this misses the point.
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain”
This quote hangs on my wall to remind me that Mindfulness is about being prepared to look at yourself, and despite what you see to access the stillness that is always there inside, even when you feel disturbed, tormented, busy, excited, happy or any other emotional state. It's about letting go of thoughts and emotions, not pushing them away and not holding on to them. It's about something deeper than just an emotion.
Mindfulness is about being prepared to sit still and face whatever is, however difficult, knowing that the calm and peace are not dependent on how you feel if you can open up and trust. It's like being the sky, and watching the clouds pass by.
It seems to me that Mindfulness is a lifetime's work, moment by moment. If you find your mind getting stuck in habitual patterns of thought, or you notice the same painful emotions coming up again and again, you might want to seek help to find a different way of being with those difficult patterns. If talking to a therapist would help, please get in touch.