Putting My Practice to the Test

Practicing mindfulness meditation and engaging in authentic living has provided a much-needed, positive foundation for my life.  I practice being intentional in my communication with others and work to foster empathy in my life.  These practices and efforts can be easy when things are going well, but it is when we face deep disappointments and challenges that our practice is put to the test.

Recently, I faced one of those disappointing, and unforeseen, situations at work and I have been attempting to come back from it for the past couple weeks.  I’d like to say that because I practice mindfulness that I was able to perfectly handle my negative emotions, but in reality the first thing I did was attempt to suppress them.   As Skylar Liberty Rose wrote in her post, Depression or Suppression? Where Do the Silent Screams Go?, “We want to take the raging storm in our head and package it so beautifully that nobody will ever have a single iota that havoc wreaks within.”

I had practiced suppression of emotions for years before I began my mindfulness practice and it was an easy default for me.  But it didn’t work well then and, not surprisingly, it didn’t work well now.  My negative emotions remained with me and, because I was attempting to suppress them, my negative emotions leaked out into my interactions with my coworker friends.  Unfortunately, this resulted in the need for me to issue an apology for the hurt that I inadvertently caused.

But after my apology, I felt even worse.  All I could think about was the fact that, not only was I trying to work through my own hurt, but I ended up causing hurt to others.  And it seemed that my mindfulness and empathy practice didn’t make me any better at handling disappointment and it didn’t keep me from hurting people I cared about.  Julia Cameron writes, “All of us have an inner Censor, that nasty voice that tries to discount what we are doing.”  She warns that we must not believe what it tells us.  In my low moment, I truly believed the negative narrative that my inner Censor was telling me.

Because of my mindfulness practice, I was able to quickly become aware of my inner Censor telling me this negative narrative and I acknowledged that it was my choice to believe this narrative or not.  I chose to remind myself that mindfulness and intentional communication are not magic wands.  We don’t start practicing and immediately and permanently become fully aware and perfect individuals.  These tools allow us to be aware in each moment and effectively work through the varied challenges we face as humans.  As my yoga instructor reminds my class, “this is our ‘practice’, not our ‘perfect’.”

Because of my intentional communication practice, I was able to be more empathetic to others even while dealing with my own hurt.  This allowed me to more effectively communicate with my coworker friends and make amends to them.  Because of my mindfulness practice, I was able to release my judgement about my own emotions and have been practicing sitting with my hurt.  My mindfulness practice will assist me in the process of working through my negative emotions and releasing them.

Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote, “There is an art to facing difficulties in ways that lead to effective solutions and to inner peace and harmony.  When we are able to mobilize our inner resources to face our problems artfully, we find that we are usually able to orient ourselves in such a way that we can use the pressure of the problem itself to propel us through it, just as a sailor can position the wind to propel the boat…Developing skill in facing and effectively handling the various ‘weather conditions’ in your life is what we mean by the art of conscious living.”

As this recent experience has shown me, I won’t always respond to challenges, disappointments, and hardships perfectly, but I am responding in a much more effective manner than I ever have before.  In putting my own practice to the test, I can see that my mindfulness and intentional living practice is helping me to develop my skill in facing and effectively handling the various ‘weather conditions’ in my life.