My own practices each day
During our conversations in the clinic, people often ask what I practice to keep well. The simple answer to the question is that I have grooved several key practices that enable me to think clearly, and see things for what they really are. Now, to qualify this, yes I have been practicing for a long time, and no I am not perfect at them! They are always work in progress as we learn more and more about ourselves, the world and how the two come together.
So, the main practices are mindfulness and exercise. Sounds simple! It does actually get easier and easier to live them as they become second nature and part of who are are. More importantly they are part of your ‘why’, or your purpose in life. Starting with a vision of success, you can then choose to orientate you thinking and actions toward this picture. To achieve something takes practice and focus and learning. Mindfulness and exercise are both important for this as ways to improve performance, but of course they themselves are to be practiced.
The idea of the Pain Coach came to me having thought about the best way we can address the huge problem of chronic pain. I wanted a way to authentically reach the person and encourage them to take the steps to success, feeling inspired by what they are doing and achieving. In essence, the person is coached to become their own coach, simply because we are with ourselves all the time and need to make decisions and take action. To overcome pain, which we can, this needs to be consistently in-line with the health ‘me’. But, we are all coaching ourselves. That inner dialogue we all generate and experience can be so influential in our perceptions, actions and thinking.
~ how am I choosing to feel?
One of the areas I have worked upon in my practices is the inner dialogue. The realisation that the inner dialogue is saying ‘……….’ and that I do not have to listen and instead choose another route, is empowering. Of course that does not mean that the ‘negative’ voice is not heard. It means we can choose to think in a different way, feel a different way by actively carving a new thought pattern or action. How am I choosing to think? How am I choosing to feel? Two great questions to ponder as they create space to make a decision in line with the best you captured by the vision.
Mindful practice takes a number of forms. I find the practices described by Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chödrön to be highly relevant and effective for the modern world in which we live ~ here’s an example.
The formal practice of sitting and being mindful or mindfulness meditation develops our skills in paying attention, knowing our mind’s habits, experiencing a healthy flexibility with our emotions and often a calmness that is welcomed. However, in practicing, we are not trying to get anywhere or actively creating a certain state. Instead, we are open to whatever arises each moment, whether pleasant or unpleasant, seeing things for what they are.
~ paying attention and being present gives us great insight
Day to day practice, or through the day practice, string together awareness of what is happening in this moment. Our mind’s natural state is to jump around, into the past or future, which if unskilled means that we embody this flitting to the point of discomfort and suffering. There is a difference between being aware that you are holding a memory about a particular event and re-living it. Both will be emotional, but one causing much more suffering than the other. In being mindful, one learns to let go instead of gripping on and replaying the tape, building the emotion with the knock on effects for the day.
A simple way of achieving this is by consciously taking 3 breaths and slowly breathing out. Setting a reminder of having a prompt can be helpful until it becomes second nature.
Learning to ease your own suffering
To learn to ease your own suffering allows one to present the ways to others, so that they might ease theirs. Undoubtedly, everyone experiences suffering through their lives as it is unavoidable. This suffering, when transformed, becomes one of the most valuable learning experiences that can be used to benefit others and society. The great people people we listen to about the ways we can ease suffering have suffered enormously and this is no coincidence.
The most potent example of suffering is the loss of someone you love. And whilst the pain may never go, the suffering can and does ease. Indeed, when the experience is then looked at, if some good were to emerge it would be a deeper compassion for others’ suffering and an ability to help and support others to move onward in a chosen direction.
On a more day to day basis, suffering comes on the form of anxieties, fears and wanting to be someone or somewhere else. Resisting what is happening and how you are right now causes great tension and discomfort. People can behave in unpleasant ways when they feel they are not getting what they ‘deserve’.
Mindful practice, which is simply being open to all experiences, seeing how they naturally transform and pass, letting go of attachments and being non-judgmental, relieves all of the causes of suffering mentioned above. We can also develop the insight to understand the causes of our suffering: ‘know thyself’. Exploring the question: ‘who am I?’ can be most challenging, but most revealing and the way to perform our best at home, at work or on the field of play
We can all develop our own ways of practicing according to our philosophy of life. Starting by defining that philosophy and writing it down alongside the clear picture of what the desired life looks like, sets the stall. These are some of my tenets:
- We are designed to change and we can choose the direction we take by choosing an attitude to life
- We are great learners and opportunities to learn exist all the time
- We all have incredible potential
- We can choose to do our best each day
- We have the basic tools, but it is down to the individual to take responsibility and flourish
What will you choose?