I’m no enlightened monk, I haven’t mastered mindfulness and meditation and I don’t live in a constantly present state. But I have had incredible experiences with these things and I want to attempt to help you understand and unlock a greater awareness of them, of which you already have inside of you. That’s the thing with all of this – spiritual teachers or gurus don’t make you more aware or enlightened, they merely provide a doorway or a gateway to help you realise who you really are and what’s important. So let me have a go – I can’t think of anything better than helping someone realise this.
Your thoughts and emotions
The first thing you need to be aware of and accept is that you are not your thoughts and emotions. Again, you are not your thoughts and emotions. Your thoughts think themselves and your emotions feel themselves. If this doesn’t make sense to you right now then try this – as soon as you get to the end of this sentence, completely stop everything you are doing. Look away from the screen and just sit where you are for 10-20 seconds then come back.
How was it? What did you notice? Looking back on it now did you notice that thoughts randomly cropped up into your mind? Maybe you thought about what you’re going to have for dinner or something that happened to you during the day. Now consider this, you’re doing nothing remotely associated with dinner or your day, and you didn’t decide to think about these topics, they just popped into your head. These thoughts thought themselves. Similarly if someone decides to push in front of you in a line or pull out in front of you in traffic, you don’t decide, right I’m going to feel angry now. Instead, the emotion arises in you from nowhere and what feels like, without your control. The emotion felt itself.
Why is this important? Well, when you are aware that you are not thinking your thoughts or feeling your emotions, you can instead begin to observe them. In doing this you can start to choose how you react to them, rather than letting them control you. It’s completely up to you how you want to shape your life. Pretty cool right? By choosing to manifest positivity into your life you will in turn attract further positivity, allowing you to flourish even more.
Knowing this and how simple it is is a massive first step, but applying it is even more of a challenge. I’ll be the first to admit that in the heat of a situation dealing with an onslaught of thoughts and emotions that completely consume you, seeing a way out of them seems completely hopeless and useless. You can become a complete slave to your emotions, especially when jealousy, anger, resentment and fear are involved. Once you become more practiced at being aware of these emotions you will then start to view these situations as tests or trials, rather than negative experiences. You can use them to develop and hone your awareness and you will learn to be grateful for these situations.
Well how do you get here? By setting aside time in your day to sit with and observe your thoughts and emotions. This is called meditation. It is a time to sit and be completely present with yourself and to observe what comes into your head. It is called the practice of meditation because by doing it you are training yourself to deal with situations that arise in a more present, focused and beneficial way throughout your life. The key to meditation is coming to a place where all you are focusing on is the present.
The reason you do this is because all negative thoughts and emotions come from either worrying about what has happened or what will happen – in other words, the past and the future.
These things have either happened or are going to happen and right now, in the present, there is nothing you can do to change that. As an example you might be thinking about a negative exchange you had with someone during the day – you become completely absorbed in it, emotions resurface and you play it back in your head how you wished it went down, what you should of said. But think, how is this serving you? It’s not, and in fact it’s doing you harm. You can’t go back and relive the situation, so let it go. Or maybe you are nervous and worried about a presentation or an exchange you have coming up. It’s fine to feel nervous about this, but ask yourself, really what is the point of worrying about this and living these emotions 5 days before the situation? There is no point. And when you are living in the past or the future you are completely missing out on what is happening right now, this very second. How crazy is that? You are constantly living in a beautiful state of presence but frequently we transport ourselves back or forwards away from the present moment, hoping that somehow we will find ourselves in them. When you practice presence through meditation you realise that the most important time is now, and you can live in that.
Right now stop and take a big nourishing inhale and exhale. Completely focus on that breath as it happens – that is being present. Where you are right now is exactly where you are meant to be. Not in the past and not in the future. By realising that being present is the most important thing you realise that thoughts and emotions pull you away from this presence. In understanding that you can learn to observe your thoughts and emotions in a present state and learn to tame the chatter of the mind.
This might all be a lot to take in, it might even just seem like a big bunch of words! So here are two methods to start becoming the observer of your mind:
Meditation: This is the most simple meditation technique and something I continuously go back to in my practice. Sit on a chair or in a comfortable cross-legged position. With your eyes closed take a big inhale and then exhale and relax into your body. From there take some time to become aware of the smells, sounds and sensations around you, observe them. Now begin to focus on your breath. Don’t alter it just observe it. As you breathe in count 1, then out 2, then in 3 and out 4, up until 10. Once at 10 start over again, doing this 3-4 times or as many as you want. This method uses the breath as an anchor to keep you in the present. But as you do this you will realise that thoughts will randomly pop into your head. The aim is to observe these thoughts, accept them and then release them. Imagine them like a wave breaking onto the shore, sweeping up the beach and then back out to sea. The whole point of this practice is to do exactly what I’ve been telling you – to observe your thoughts. By remaining present with the breath and allowing and accepting thoughts as they come and go, you can tune into your true or divine self. After you have finished the breathing practice just sit with yourself and see what comes to the surface. You will find that you begin to make realisations and that the mind can be used as a tool to delve deeply into infinite topics, but from a completely different place.
If you would prefer a guided mediation then check out the head space app, it’s free and is a great learning tool.
Journaling: Another very simple and easy technique. Simply get a journal and a pen and start writing with no intention – that is the important part. It’s not about describing the events in your day, it’s more a written conversation with yourself. This method becomes a tool of self-reflection. Just like when you look in a mirror your see yourself better, when you reflect your thoughts and emotions onto a page you are able to understand and evaluate them and yourself better. You will notice that certain things constantly pop up and that you start to grasp why you feel or act a certain way in different situations. It is an extremely powerful tool, I recommend trying to do it every night for a while and see how you go. It doesn’t matter how much you write, just do it.
If you are interested in this technique then check out Julia Cameron’s book – The Artists Way, where she delves deep into journaling as a way to discover your creativity and yourself.
How this relates to veganism
You may be wondering how all of this relates to my theme of veganism. I truly believe that getting more plant powered is the foundation for a more compassionate and mindful life. Think about it like this, if you spent all your time watching violent and negatively charged television then it’s most likely that you yourself will start to have negative and violent tendencies. If you hang around with a negative group of people, how do you feel? Negative right? It’s the same with food – if every day you consume animals which have witnessed the traumatic experience of slaughter and then been slaughtered themselves you are not consuming positive energy. You are what you consume. Consume positively charged foods like fruits and vegetables and it will assist in opening your mind to the present moment and to a more mindful state.
What’s funny about everything you’ve just read and the techniques I suggested is that unless you engage with the content or practice the methods on a soul level, you may theoretically understand what I am talking about but you will never fully engage with and understand the release and bliss it can provide you. I can’t stress enough how gratifying, satisfying, cleansing and uplifting taking the time to be mindful and present can be. I believe that until you start engaging with it you aren’t fully living yet, you are merely floating through life as another being and I know that you know there is something more. You’ve felt it in your gut and in your intuition before when you’ve thought, felt, guessed or realised something that on a human level is unexplainable and doesn’t make sense. Start tapping into that now and I can promise you, you wont go back.