I have always loved the practice of meditation. The idea of taking some time to look inside ourselves and see what is going on in there just amazes me. All the time I practice I am always surprised by how simple, yet insightful, meditation is. Just staying there, looking at thoughts without judgement, without the need of running after concepts of right or wrong is enough for me to feel refreshed. It is like a nice occasion to step out from all identifications and attachments and just observe to see who we really are.
Facing ourselves is not always easy. When we are in front of ourselves it is very tempting to take a stand and judge the stream of thoughts and identifications, or to run away from them. Yet, pure observation, when is there, has always felt to me like fresh water, washing away what is stale and bringing up new insights and contentment.
For me basic mindfulness and meditation should be taught in school to young children as part of their curricula. Can you imagine how much of a better place the world would be if we were taught since childhood to recognise our thoughts as momentary phenomenons, rather than getting stuck on or condemning them?
While I am waiting for this to happen I will continue to develop my own practice. Because, you know, to become better at understanding ourselves and letting go is not jut something we should do to improve our daily life. To feel less stressed, to have more clarity and peace are all welcomed side effect. Yet, this search for our souls goes far beyond that. To be able to look deeply is a clear responsibility we have for the whole system called Universe. We are not doing it for our own benefit only, but for the benefit of all beings.
By looking inside we do not become some kind of super heroes. What we gain is just to be a little more present to life around us. That’s enough to respond to life from a fresh perspective and to give our best. And that’s enough to bring a little improvement. For everybody.
As I was developing my interest for meditation I have explored many different methods. There were those where you jump everywhere and scream to get rid of all tensions, those were on sits and focuses on the sound “ohm” and the ones were one sits imagining him/herslef being an empty can of bamboo being filled by the whole universe. All interesting stuff. All nice experiences. Yet, after a first experimentation I saw that, just like with cooking, the simplest things are the best ones!
What works best for me right now are simple practices that allow me to be more in contact with my ordinary reality and to see it from a different perspective. The more down to earth the better. What I am searching for right now is just to try to open the window of my mind a little more. Nothing special.
At the moment I am in love with the simple practice of self-compassion. In this practice there is nothing esoteric. Perhaps even my grandma who spent all her life in the North of Italy and knew nothing about oriental cultures was practicing it in a way or another. For me this practice works as follows:
- I spend some few minutes focusing on something uncomfortable that happened during the day. Rather than escaping the sensation of discomfort I try to stick to it and feel it as it is in the body. No escapes.
- The second step is the proper self-compassion one. In this part I smile at that negative emotion as it is, without judging it. In the meantime I give myself a self hugh. Like as if one says to himself: “I love you regardless of any negative feeling or thoughts you might have”.
- The third part is to explore the possible causes of the negative feeling. I ask myself: “where did that feeling came from? Why was it there? What does it represent? Is there something more deep attached to it?”. The key here is not to over think. On the opposite, one has to use his own intuition.
- The fourth point is to let go. How would it feel to let go of that negative feeling, or the let go the attachments that created it?
To be honest with you guys it is a bit strange to speak about meditation in a series of steps. In reality this self-compassion practice is not that rigid as it might seem. The steps are just a point of reference. In reality at a certain point one simply goes with the flow, just like in a dance.
This self-compassion practice taught me so much. I saw more and more where I was getting stuck on. Most of it was self-judgement and this practice help me to become more aware of it and letting it go. From there it became easier for me to open up to others and accept things as they are (a skill I am still developing everyday to be honest!).
I would suggest you guys try this practice for a few days and see how it feels like for you. You will be surprised by how much interesting material might arise. Just make me a favour, after you’ve tried it, let me know how it went! I wish you all the best!
I have learnt the practice of self-compassion from Leo Babauta, in his super blog Zen Habits. I strongly recommend you to have a look at it if you wish to know more.