Mindfulness is the big buzz of the modern world. But is it missing a core piece?
I’ve had this argument in a few different ways over the years – meditation is clearly one of life’s key practices. Being able to come back to oneself, and feeling a sense of peace and depth at ones core is the source for everything else meaningful in a life well-lived.
Obviously, if we can’t feel that connection to ourselves, all the external stuff in the world won’t make us happy – the material goods, even the connections with others won’t truly touch us, because we’re not fully present.
And it’s also fairly obvious that it’s our ‘stuff’ that gets in the way. Our baggage, emotional wounds and self-defence personality traits that we developed during our upbringing as a smart way to survive, but that at the same time took us away from our original essence, our natural connection to source that we felt as young children and we still tap into during peak experiences.
So the key question is – is meditation a spiritual bypass, an avoidance strategy or can one process ones emotional baggage in meditation.
I’m sure that it’s possible to become more aware of our limitations and our ‘stuff’ by sitting quietly in meditation and watching the mind’s games and incessant chatter, but can we actually process it?
Hardcore meditation advocates would maintain that it is – that we have to just sit with, and sit with, and sit with it and allow it to dissolve.
Two things to say – one, I’m not convinced that it really gets processed, instead of just repressed, and two, even if it does, why go through such a long, difficult, process, when there are easier ways of dealing with it.
In addition to some really heart-opened meditators, I’ve met a number of people with strong meditation practices who were declaring compassion and connection while behaving in a way that showed quiet anger, aggression and, frankly, hate.
The Indian mystic Osho’s key realisation was that western therapies and meditation had to go together, western man had so much inner noise that one couldn’t simply access the deep meditative space without doing the inner work.
That’s my experience. That meditation comes naturally in the space created by doing the work.
In the ashram, doing the Osho mystic rose meditation program. It’s a three week course, three hours a day. Seven days of laughing, seven of crying and seven days of simply watching. The idea is to loosen oneself up with the laughing, then feel and process the sadness, and then watching the inner space that opens up inside when the emotions are expressed.
I’ve connected deeply with a woman here, and we’ve found a beautiful space of silence and connection with each other – so when she decided to go into silence for the last week, we talked about doing it together.
She’s a much more experienced meditator than I am, older and already with a lot of serenity going on.
But on the first day, I realised how ambitious what we were trying was. Even if we’d been married for 20 years, being in silence together inside a process like this would be difficult.
Silence and isolation is one thing, to go deeply into one’s inner process.
Trying to stay connected in the silence is very different – as there’s still so much other communication going on, body language, eye contact – looks and glances. It’s so easy to go into a feedback loop – one partner’s concern for the other ‘are they ok?’ gets reflected back and turns into a spiral, with no way of communicating what’s going on in words.
Furthermore, I’m processing my ‘stuff’ here – which immediately the silence began – consisted of a feeling of abandonment and isolation. Even though consciously I knew it wasn’t, that’s how my inner child experienced it. Big wound for me that comes from intense isolation issues.
I felt like a wall had fallen between us, and it was painful.
My background, through workshop processes, tells me that I have to speak what’s going on – to verbalise it and by doing that, feel the emotion’s contours and give it form – with the other person, which then allows the connection to be restored.
I spoke this to her – saying that I couldn’t do it, either we had to go into silence and isolation independently, or gave ourselves a window in the day of an hour or so to express what’s coming up.
Her take was that it was my mind interfering and I just needed to quiet it down in meditation. It’s a Catch 22 argument that I’m sure many have found themselves in. The dogma of meditation is that meditation on its own is enough. It’s not true for me.
Mindfulness is one thing – the heart has its own journey. Perhaps life itself will provide the learning experiences, on the other hand – there are self-development technologies that can do the job.
A group held by a great facilitator is pretty much guaranteed to trigger the emotional wounds that need to be processed.
Being here at the Osho ashram this time is like being in a constant workshop for me.
And actually just speaking that truth to my partner, about my feelings of abandonment, and feeling that emotion come up, I felt the emotion of it, a couple of tears were shed. And then it was gone.
Connection came back. I realised that I didn’t actually need to go into silence, I’m actually in a very different space – one of deep inner silence, but a silence that is bubbling with realisations and insights that I need to express and process. Just not necessarily with her.
Heartfulness is the next step after mindfulness – let’s go there together.