There’s a great deal of concern over mental illness in our society these days and I do believe it is a problem we need to address more effectively.
Sometimes however, I believe we may be mistaking a person’s lack of awareness about what to do with emotional pain with mental illness. One requires treatment, the other education.
In the over 25 years I have been involved in personal/spiritual development, one thing has become very clear to me; for the most part we have no idea what to do with uncomfortable feelings, nor do we know what to do about the thoughts that are associated with them. This lack of information and education is at the root of a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering but it doesn’t necessarily indicate mental illness.
Through personal experience and a lot of study, contemplation and practice I’ve come to realize that our attempts at avoiding pain that is already there is often at the root of much suffering. One would think it would be wise to avoid pain at all costs, however, if the pain is already present the avoidance techniques don’t tend to work so well.
Instead of distracting or anesthetizing ourselves when we notice uncomfortable feelings it is much more effective to take a moment or two to be fully present to whatever feelings we may be experiencing.
Our bodies are amazing communication tools that we keep trying to turn off instead of listening to it. What I’ve noticed is that the more we try to ignore what is happening within, the more things don’t work without. If there’s a feeling, there’s a thought (or a group of thoughts) that goes with it. Paying attention to our bodies can help us see more clearly what we are thinking that is making us unhappy or creating more pain than is necessary. Giving ourselves some kind, compassionate attention is a good start on the road to learning how to deal more effectively with the pain we encounter in our lives.
I call this practice Presencing. It is similar to other mindfulness practices but it has its own flavour. It is an activity that can radically shift whatever you are experiencing and help you stay more in alignment with your inner being which is the aspect of you that is always there to guide you through life.
I invite you to begin by simply taking some nice full breaths, letting your focus follow the breath into the body and paying attention to any physical sensations you encounter. Bring as much kindness and compassion to this place of pain as you can for a moment then go about your day. You may or may not notice what your thoughts are but if you actually practice this you will become more and more aware and you may find that there are other ways of seeing whatever is causing you pain.
It’s a start…