Yay, at last! I’ve finally created my own website. Remember how near-impossible it seemed to learn to ride a bicycle? Starting a website has been a bit like that. Scary at first but surprisingly easy and fun once up and riding.
I began by buckling my helmet of determination and pushing my bike of curiosity up a Google hill of website templates. I passed many varieties on the way, some sticking out on the hillside like ramshackle huts, others glamorous castles of design sophistication. I found something comfortably inbetween: Weebly.
Once I’d discovered Weebly, the downhill sailing began. Wind in my hair, freewheeling, big blue sky. Relief: it can be done.
Crash. Spoilt for choice. So many options. Grey headers, blue headers, chose your own colour. Tabs to the side or up above; big tabs, small tabs, medium tabs, flashing tabs. Put a single column here or a triple column there? And what about buttons, widgets and fonts?
My pace slackens, hesitations at the roadside of doubt. (What if Wordpress would have been a better choice, or that other mob …)
I peddle on. The Weebly instructions prove to be reliable roadsigns, simple and straightforward. You simply can’t go wrong: it’s all drag and drop. My ride takes me through hills and valleys, decision after decision. What to drag and what to drop? What to choose and what to lose? What tone to take, what ‘look’ to make? Bit by bit it all comes together.
I’ve chosen the name Joyful Mind because mindfulness brings more joy to our life as we grow in appreciation and lessen our addiction to rumination and automatic pilot mode. Mindful life brings the feel of a shiny new colourful bike rather than a rusty old jiggly one with squeaks and punctures. Even on the inescapably jiggly days, mindfulness is the bell on the handlebars that helps steer our way through the twisting laneways crowded with junk and potholes, the difficult times and uncomfortable headspaces we all encounter.
Through mindfulness we discover a way of being present that infuses unwanted situations with space and clarity. It makes the difference between being stuck in our head with our clamouring thoughts and not being stuck. When life is going smoothly, mindfulness boosts our energy, enjoyment, relationships and life satisfaction.
Let’s park the bicycle metaphor at this point because the mindfulness process is profoundly different to bicycling. Once we’ve got the knack of how to stay upright and balanced on a bike, that’s it, we’re set. Not so with mindfulness. Mindfulness requires repeated efforts, repeated reminders. Over and over again. We’re challenging the habit of rumination and autopilot; changing habits means we’re changing neural structures in our brain. It takes time. The reward is life-changing.
Wait up. It’s somewhat misleading to infer mindfulness itself requires effort: mindfulness is the easiest thing in the world. The hard part is remembering to do it. We need an action plan. Attending classes is helpful. A regular short mindfulness meditation practice at home is a reliable method for many people. The bottom line is to deliberately and frequently remind oneself to be present during routine daily tasks. Being present, we let go of the tension we’re holding in our body; we expose our largely unconscious mental chatter, we get a whiff of freedom.
EFFORT AND EASE
In my classes we often discuss the ‘effort versus ease’ aspect of mindfulness. I encourage participants to approach mindfulness practice gently: over-efforting is counterproductive. If someone’s feeling “I can’t do this, it’s too difficult” I suggest they’re trying too hard. Ease up. Once you’ve remembered to be mindful, you’re already mindful. There’s not something extra to add to that. Just be there.
Perhaps we’re so unfamiliar with pausing- just pausing- it seems threatening. Perhaps we’re so familiar with straining that strain has become our habit. We wind up… wound up!
How to wind down? Mindfulness is a holiday from straining, from trying too hard, from pushing and striving. It’s about letting go and letting be in all variety of situations and noticing what happens then. It’s about being non-judgemental about our reactions (another hard habit to break); self-compassionate (ditto); it’s about developing trust in our own instincts and inner guidance. And it’s about acceptance. Accepting what is happening in the moment brings clarity and is the first step on the mindfulness path; on the other hand, pushing away or applying force leads us deeper into the jungle.
The attitudes just described are summarised by one word: mindfulness. The point is that the practice itself is the reward. The practice itself is the mindfulness! The absence of automaticity makes mindfulness a very fresh state: we refresh ourselves in the present again and again. This freshness is often likened to a ‘beginner’s mind’, new each time. We lose it whenever we grow complacent.
The enjoyable refreshing quality to ‘being present’ feeds our new habit to be present and encourages us to push the mindfulness button again and again. We recognise that being ruminative or automatic takes us to a stale place and we want to clamber out. Thus effort becomes joyful effort; the whole meaning of ‘effort’ changes. Effort and ease intermingle because
the reward comes straight away (providing our expectations don’t hide it). We discover that the journey itself is the destination. There is no distant goal. With mindfulness, we are already here.
Thanks for reading . Please leave a comment if you’d like, it would be great to hear from you.
© Shakti Burke 2013
Thanks to Libby Varcoe, web strategist http://www.writeminded.com.au, who came up to Lennox Head from Sydney last year to lend her sage advice through ArtsNorthern Rivers https://artsnorthernrivers.com.au/ and whose inspiration sparked this blog.