What is the essence of mindfulness? To answer this question, I have a story for you. Note that I will use she for the gender to make the reading easier.
Imagine a ladybug, sitting inside her apartment behind a window and playing with her toy : a tiny green ball she made earlier from some grass in the park. It’s raining outside. She looks at the rain and wants to go outside, but she can’t. If she gets upset and listens to her first instinct, not only will she not find a way to go outside, but she also won’t be able to enjoy her play time with her ball. If she asked herself: « who wants to go out while it’s raining ? », it would be judgmental and self-critical towards herself. So, our little ladybug chooses NOT to engage with the desire thought of going out, and she doesn’t put herself down for her desire to be outside. Instead, she tells herself: « it’s OK to wish to go outside and yes, it’s sad that I can’t leave my home at this moment ». She continued playing with her little green ball. She doesn’t let these thoughts impact her play experience.
Then, she sees another ladybug outside, playing and laughing under the rain. She could start comparing herself to that ladybug, thinking that the other ladybug has a better life than her… But then, nothing from the other ladybug’s life would be added to hers. Also, this would result in her losing and wasting her play time with her ball. So, she chooses to stay present in the moment, with her toy, and remembers all the time she took to make the green ball earlier at the park. She tells herself : « that was very fun. It is OK to play inside sometimes, we cannot play outside ALL the time », and she continues to play with her little green ball.
Our little ladybug was mindful. She was nonjudgmental, she observed her thoughts and didn’t engage with them. She just accepted that her thoughts and emotions exist; didn’t deny them, but allowed them to be. She was self-compassionate because she was having her play time. That is why she did not choose to miss on her current experience. Finally, she was able to shift her focus towards what was in front of her, in the present moment, and she chose to let go of the facts she couldn’t control.
You can try to practice mindfulness and compare your process with the ladybug in the story and see what are the parts that may need a little extra work! Remember, mindfulness is like a muscle : the more you train, the stronger you will get.
– Hanieh Tohidi, counselor at ANEB