When I speak to people about mindfulness I find that most are in the position I was before I began researching mindfulness, they don’t have a clear map of understanding of how their mind works or how to train it.
One thing that mindfulness training offers is the best wisdom of cognitive psychology and neuroscience in giving us a clear map of our minds and how to train them.
In their book ‘ Mindfulness, a practical guide to Finding Peace In a Frantic World’ Mark Williams and Danny Penman ask the question, ‘Why do we attack ourselves?’ (15-31). In their book ‘Mindfulness for Health’ Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman talk about the ‘wild horses’ of the mind (53-75). That’s why I’ve used the title ‘how to train your dragon mind.’
What I’ve found is that helping people have a clear map of understanding how their mind works, and how to train it, is very liberating for people. Whether it is understanding the neuroplasticity of their brains and how they can lay down new neural pathways through mindful awareness or meditative practices; or their capacities for rational critical thinking and the doing mental gear, or the streams of awareness within them and the being mental gear.
Learning about our ability to both focus our attention and open our awareness, the importance of focusing on the present moment and having an attitude of that is compassionate, curious and non-judgemental – helps us put the jigsaw of our minds and bodies together, until finally we see the big picture. Seeing that big picture is often an epiphany moment, a charged moment of insight.
People are interested in mindfulness for health, as developed in secular psychology through treatments like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) – and I talk to many who are intrigued by the Christian idea of mindfulness of God.
Mindfulness is also being used at work, in education and leadership and many other areas including sport, art, writing and music. Very good introductions to mindfulness are the two books I’ve mentioned above.
Having a clear map of understanding how your dragon mind works and how to train it, is, I think, one of the most important things we can do to open up our inner world, and the world around us, in a way that enables us to live life fully.
‘An Eskimo custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape, the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.’
(LUCY LIPPARD, OVERLAY, quoted in Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit (pp.6-8)).
I think mindful walking enables us to release our afflictive emotions like anger, as we take each step. In formal mindful awareness practices involving walking, you usually take 10-12 steps, stop and then retrace your steps, repeating this for a certain length of time.
The beauty of this wonderful quote above, that caught my eye, is that I think longer walks also have this capacity.
What afflictive emotion could you walk out of your system?