One of our delights growing up as children in Kenya was to take the long trek to the coast. We would spend hours gazing into rock pools, for fish, crabs, and once a little octopus.
We are spending our last day in Sri Lanka in a beach house, which has a strip of living coral outside acting as a barrier to the large waves. As the tide has receded the coral and its rock pools have been exposed.
The trick to seeing something is to be as still as the pool, to get close to the sand and. not cast a shadow. This too has a lesson for us in contemplative awareness. We too have pools inside our mind that are still, mindful states of calm and open awareness. Too often we are just caught up in the surf of stress.
Standing barefoot in the sand, or contemplating the pools, listening to the sound of the waves we can find these mindful states of mind naturally. It is much harder in the busyness of ordinary life. It is much harder because in our Western culture we are often living in our heads, living virtually. Our ruminative patterns of mental time travel stir up the pools in our head until we are spun one way and then another.
The knack of finding the still pool within is by coming back to our embodied senses. As we enter these streams of awareness we can find the meta-awareness that contains our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations.
As we learn to do this, mindful states of mind emerge. With practice we can create a new tide within that has wide open mindful spaces that contain and calm the surf.
I am going to do an eight day section of the Camino pilgrimage walk in Spain in May. We will be walking from 13 to 24 kilometres a day and it will be warm. I’m looking for socks, shirts and a hat that have moisture wicking abilities: equipment that moves the moisture away from your skin through the sock, for example, helping to regulate the natural processes the human body goes through in exercise and reduce the friction.
As human beings we have natural self-regulating psychological processes such as emotional regulation, and these processes wick our emotions. They notice our emotions, experience them without clinging to them and avoiding them and allowing them to move on – because our thoughts and feelings are passing mental events. This is an insight of mindfulness and these are naturally mindful processes- mindfulness practice can enhance this natural emotional wicking.
The first step is the metacognitive proposition that my thoughts and feelings are passing mental events. This proposition can then become a metacognitive insight, move from head to heart and felt experience through mindful practice. We become aware of this capacity for emotional wicking as it happens.
All our feelings are important including those generated by our amygdala, our fight and flight response. The trouble is that we live in such a fearful and anxious culture that our stress response is is on a hair-trigger, our capacity for emotional wicking gets overwhelmed.
As I learnt how to practice and restore an enhanced emotional wicking through mindfulness practice, I realised that I wasn’t an anxious person stuck in the sweat of anxiety, I was having anxious thoughts and that I could handle them mindfully and wisely through natural but enhanced emotional wicking.
I have just uploaded a new video on Mindful Relationships: our relationship with our own self; our relationship with others, creation and God. You can find it on You Tube and here is the link: