I remember the year 2011 as the unfolding of a spiritual process I could no longer deny. I started to be bombarded with more and more painful situations and events that I now see were meant to wake me up. They had to be intense, otherwise, I would have not begun peeling off the masks that needed to fall down. In 2013, I tried to pick up my life’s broken pieces and I turned to mindfulness as a way to cope with stress. I focused on what Buddhism had to teach about it and it was somewhat easy to dive into it. Yet the truth is that my learning efforts didn’t solve any of my problems at that time.
I started judging myself hard for not being able to be mindful and use mindfulness as a coping strategy. I wanted to stop reacting so dramatically to life in general but I kept failing at it. I felt like an impostor because one of my masks was to achieve perfection in whatever I did. I kept doing research and reading papers. I wanted to know what was I doing wrong, and that’s where my problem lied. I was too focused on doing whereas mindfulness is about being. It didn’t matter how many mindfulness books I could get my hands on. I had to switch from human-doing to human-being.
I only grasped this notion when I handed in my master’s thesis. The process itself had been so hazardous that I didn’t even appreciate the journey. I wanted to get it done and stop suffering. I postponed my well-being and peace of mind, thinking that I could only have them once the job was done. Yet, they never came afterward. At least not until I learned the lesson. After finishing my postgraduate studies, I moved to the UK to pursue a Ph.D. degree. I kept doing research on mindfulness. I even attended a big international mindfulness conference to present my work. At the conference, I saw how academics walk their egos around, and how monks embodied humility. Who was more present?
I then recognized the root of my problem. I was reacting to life from a consciousness level I couldn’t understand what mindfulness was about. I was reacting to life instead of responding to it mindfully. I was trying to incorporate concepts that were only in my head but not yet in my heart. That’s why I kept feeling like an impostor and a failure. Mindfulness is a pathway to reach the heart, the center of our being. If we are stuck in our heads, we’re bounded by our academic knowledge and ego. We won’t be able to experience and appreciate our journey. Whatever that journey involves, you can bring mindfulness into it and experience well-being. No matter what.
Sometimes even the blue sky gets grey. That does not mean that the sky stopped being blue, it means that grey clouds exist and they come by. Mindfulness does not erase our negative emotions and experiences. Instead, it allows us to become an observer of our life and thus see the bigger picture of what is happening. When we see the bigger picture, we learn to accept the moment we are in. Mindfulness is about accepting what is, without pretending that you are a super-human. No one is bulletproof. Your essence may be zen like the sky is blue, but sometimes you will also feel anger, sadness, and confusion. That happens because we get distracted by the clouds. As long as you keep practicing to be present in life and to come back to your center, the sky will clear again. It always does.
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