Mindfulness and Thoughts

By Helen Williams and Kristine Enger

As you know, Mindful ME consultants focus on mindfulness as an approach to truly living with meaningful, authentic, present moment awareness.  This means learning to notice and practice awareness of our thoughts rather than being controlled or lost by them.

Recently Helen and Kristine sat down to chat about how this approach enhances wellbeing and changes our experience of fear and anxiety within our daily lives.

HELEN: I’ve noticed a sharp increase in people wanting to engage in conversations about mindfulness and particularly in relation to the way we experience our thoughts.  How have you experienced this in your work lately and why do you think we are noticing this growing awareness towards mindfulness?

KRISTINE: Yes – I’ve noticed it too – I’m having more and more conversations where people are becoming more aware of their thinking, which indicates an expansion of awareness. When our awareness expands, we start to see and experience life from a more elevated perspective, with more depth of feeling. The more aware we become, we also begin to notice how often we are stuck in unhelpful, repetitive thought patterns, which we then want to end, preferably immediately! That usually begins a conversation around non-judgement and self-acceptance.

HELEN:

Yes, I agree. So many people look for ways of dealing with their unhelpful, repetitive thinking patterns and discover that practicing mindfulness is a wonderful way of working with this in a loving and safe way. The difficult thoughts that we start to notice can sometimes be a bit daunting and it can be helpful to chat with an experienced practitioner about them.

KRISTINE:

Yes, having support while exploring our relationships with thoughts is so helpful – otherwise it can be easy to fall into self-shaming and anxiety around try to “get rid of them”. I usually gently help my clients see that thinking is beyond our control. Thinking will forever be the backdrop of our lives, constantly streaming through us. There is literally no escape from thought, because there is not supposed to be – and that is ok! Judging ourselves for the pesky thoughts that we might have, makes no sense. It is more helpful to remember that the majority of the thoughts we think in a single day are actually not true, and not become so attached to them.

HELEN:

Yes – I guess the question is then – what are thoughts and why do we have them?

KRISTINE:

Thoughts are just unrealised, completely neutral, potential. Not “good” or “bad”. When we give energy to them, over and over again, and they swirl around in our heads, trapped. As human beings we don’t understand how our thinking mind works. One teacher called thinking ‘the missing link’ between formless and form. It would be helpful for us as humans to redefine our relationship to thought as a creative, streaming, helpful force, at least be open to the possibility. Then, with clarity and space, we can choose our relationship with them. Again this is where talking with someone who understands this can really help – and why it is so important that this is done in a safe, honest and kind way.

Kristine and Helen are both mindfulness teachers and consultants, based in Dubai, who support individuals learning and applying mindfulness practice in their lives. You can book an individual session with Kristine or Helen by emailing info@mindfulme.me to learn more about your thinking mind or attend one of our workshops. Contact us for more info. 

Who Am I?

by Helen Williams

What is my self identity? 

By this we mean our:

  • individuality
  • uniqueness
  • distinctiveness
  • characteristics and personality.

And all of this within the greater experience of our country of birth, our race and our cultural identity. Within us all lies the deep yearning to know and to be known. From this comes the question of self identity, who am I? 

This question lies at the root of all searching on the journey towards meaning and purpose for our lives.

“Who we are looking for is who is looking” –  St Francis of Assisi

Who are you? Who is he/she? Who are they? These are the questions that we tend to ask about people. What are we asking and what answers are we looking for?

It’s often really difficult to say who we are as we tend to answer this question according to the box that is expected of us at the time. Mostly people ask us “what do you do?” and believe that this will answer those questions. Often this is all they are really interested in – how to box and categorise us according to our career or financial position.

For me this search is about how we allow ourselves to be seen and experienced by others. I have lost count of the people who have spoken to me over the years about their fear of being  “found out” for being a fraud and a fake. So many people live their lives trying to be all things to all people, and therefore lose the sense of who they are within. This leads to feelings of disconnection and fragmentation as we try to fit ourselves into the picture we have created.

Our Self Identity

Our identity changes often over the years – from childhood through the teenage years, then we identify with our career orientation, then we go into relationships, maybe parenthood, then on through those busy years toward midlife and then the empty nest, forward to our senior years.

The basis for our identity begins with our family of origin and any family history that is known to us. However, many of my fellow travelers on this authentic path are those whose identity cannot be based on their “background” as there is no history or connection to it; for instance, those who have been adopted and have little knowledge of their birth parents. However, beginning at birth, we lose ourselves in the sheer energy of living – in activity, in people, in beliefs, in shoulds and oughts and expectations. Mostly we identify with outward expressions of ourselves -our career, our family, our looks, our clothes, our home and possessions, our class, our education – all of these things reveal some aspects of our identity to a certain extent.

Who Am I?

In my life I have been many things to, and for, many people. I have been:

A daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, a grandmother, a friend, a partner, a mother, a worker, a piano player, a student, a pupil, a daughter in law, a neighbor, a gardener, a counselor, a caretaker, a lover, a singer, a yoga teacher, a cleaner, a dancer, a seeker, a cook, a meditation teacher, a class mate, a patient, a tennis player, a traveler, a reader, a writer, a wife, a girlfriend, a sister in law, and many, many more too. 

Some of these identities largely determine who I am today. Often it is only when there is a crisis of change that we begin to ask if we are being true to ourselves. Then the questions arise.

The wonderful poet Rainer Maria Rilke said this in Letters to a Young Poet:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Living the questions rather than searching for the answers is a paradox – and, as we live the question, “Who Am I?” – the answers arrive.

Come explore the questions with us on Sunday 3rd December from 7pm – 9pm as part of our Mindful Living series as we ask the question: “Why do I feel Lost?”. You can also join us in February for our next Authentic Living series where we will ask many more questions like this – and live them! Contact us for more information. 

 

The Simplicity of Mindfulness Practice

By Helen Williams

Mindfulness helps us to pay attention to our thoughts, to the impulses that come from them.

In our daily lives we are learning to notice what our thoughts are creating. For example, when we become aware that our work is difficult we can notice our thinking becomes “I’m going to stop now because this is too hard” and if we just observe that thought is becomes, “Oh my thinking is pushing me to stop what I’m doing because it’s hard”.  We don’t have to obey the impulse to stop working. We can simply notice that is what our thinking is doing, take some steady mindful breaths and quietly, with awareness, make a choice about following the impulse, or not.

A few moments of focussed quiet awareness can be all it takes for us to choose to continue to push through, mastering a difficult moment instead of giving in to it.

It’s like learning to disobey ourselves!! It’s such a simple act of clarity, insight and freedom! Have you ever stopped to see it like that? You are not your thoughts.  You don’t have to obey the voice of self-sabotage, of taking the easy way out.  Instead, harness the power of inner awareness and disobey your thoughts!

Wonderful outcomes can occur from the simplicity of this insight.