I have, since I embarked on this mindfulness journey, been drawn to the notion that I can not only relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety but moreover I can potentially become friends with it.
For a long time, I was trapped in a cycle of self-doubt, false attachment to a concept of who I believed I was and fear of the future and loathing of the past. For me, being me was a cycle of unhappiness, negative self-talk and fear.
Today I am a different person (in myself). Others may not see that and they may simply see that I have new interests. However, for me the changes have been quite profound. The practice of mindfulness (all be it with not enough practice) has led me to develop new skills and tactics to see the ‘real’ me behind the thick layers of fear and doubt. For me, it has enabled me to dig deep beneath the sediment of my past in order to find the buried me, something I call my Own True Nature (OTN), and to reveal it so it can shine; emitting a light showing its exquisite beauty to everyone, warts and all.
Now, I have to put out a disclaimer. I am NOT perfect, indeed I am far from it, as the people around me will testify. What I am is flawed, a fissured and ‘cloudy’ jewel that perhaps in the past was in danger of being discarded based on the false hope that there was something shinier and more perfect that would come along. However, I have now started to accept my personal make-up and my embodied faults and know that underneath the layers of mud and grit is a diamond. An unpolished diamond. I have also realised that I am that which is in all of us, a stunningly beautiful human incarnation that has its weaknesses, but also its strengths and my aim is to polish and shine my OTN in order to make it the best that it can be. I am unique, I am flawed but never the less I am also love and importantly I am me!
We have a finite amount of time on this planet and this time is often spent trying to be something that either people expect from us, we think people want from us or something that we believe we are. All of these ‘roles’ however are often based on past experience, and a poor grasp of the core of who we are. It is made up of incomplete information and an internal narrative that would really be best seen on a amateur dramatics stage. The ‘story’ I have been telling myself, I now realise, is not who I truly am. I now accept that I am more than the sum of any bad programming and dodgy wiring and that I can re-write the future from the present moment. But it will take work, focus, dedication, courage and perhaps more important than anything authenticity.
The question though is where to start and how to go about it.
Well firstly the starting point for me is to start here, right now, naked and bear and look at myself. Not in a real sense, that would just be a little extreme and also perhaps a little weird. No, you need to start to ask myself some very raw and honest questions.
Who am I?
What am I?
Why am I here?
After you have started with the safe questions and perhaps the ones that are easier to answer then start to ask yourself the following questions:
What traits do I possess?
Are they intrinsic (internal, e.g. personality, trait or genetics)?
Are they extrinsic (externally powered, often by situations and people)?
Did the past shape me?
Who caused me to me like I am?
What is my underlying feeling currently; happy, sad, disinterested?
Do I like who I am?
Am I present?
Once you start to delve a little deeper, and start to upturn some of the well placed stones that are inevitably lying about in the dark corners of your psyche, then you can start to get a feel for who you believe yourself to be. The key to this work is acceptance of what you see. No matter how happy, sad, scared and grasping you are to what is brought up, you need to start to look at everything and simply accept what is uncovered. You can then gently lay the rocks back over them and say to yourself, “I will come back to have a look at you again soon”. You are NOT there to judge what comes up, only observe it and note it.
I have started to embody the feelings in my physical body.
Do I feel tense?
If so where; shoulders, head, kneck?
Do I feel tight across the chest?
What does this feel like; it is a tight feeling, a blocked feeling, a happy or sad feeling?
What’s the ‘feeling tone’ that is current at the moment? N.b. the key here is to just observe it, let it be and then let it pass. If you hold onto it and start to dissect it, you are working on something that is active and perhaps needs to settle down before you will be really able to see it with clarity. Like a viper that is in attack mode and not calm and docile. It’s still a viper, but the states are different.
Embodying the feeling is also part of the process that I have really connected with. My head is logic, my heart is instinctive and emotional and my body has a feeling tone and a regulatory element that if I key into really balances everything.
The work of excavating who you are is a process of deep reflection and, as Tara Brach would call it, it is radical acceptance. We spend far too much time trying to be ‘something’ that we fail to be ‘who we really are’. External factors and internal judgements have a great influence and we find that, like the green belt in the countryside, it is always in danger of being built upon by unscrupulous developers. Namely our own self-doubt and fears. The land that we have available to us all the time, that we are free to cultivate and to nourish, is free from the layers of past unruly thoughts and also devoid of immense stones walls that we have build, which block out fear of the future. It is a truly green and fertile space and at its core is a diamond; a flawed self that is never the less beautiful and unique. It is YOU.