by Kay Baxter
‘Being oneself’ is the ultimate ease of being that many people long for. It is the affinity with a ‘naturalness’ whereby we are easy and fluid in our connection and responsiveness to ourselves, to others and to all that presents in our lives. Many people have lost connection with this naturalness and are often undermined by their own unhelpful thought patterns, judgement, criticism and so on. These patterns can be firmly entrenched and pervasive and have an enormously destructive effect on lives, determining the way we feel; our moods and states, our decisions and relationships. At the same time great quantities of our energy are wastefully used. These mental patterns often operate below the threshold of awareness, presenting as an insidious background hum and flavour, like wallpaper or supermarket music.
Meditation and simple practices that focus on the body and the breath in stillness, provide a wonderful container through which we can begin to get to know ourselves better, and including the patterns that operate to sabotage our best intentions and potential.
We begin a process of getting to know our minds, through the awakening and application of witness consciousness; the ‘watcher’ who ‘sees’. And in this awakening and ‘seeing’ we are no longer lost in the story. As we practice over time, this deeper witness aspect is strengthened. We are no longer a puppet to the ‘established order’, but rather are more and more able to see clearly.
Meditation and simple practices that focus on the body and the breath in stillness, provide a wonderful container through which we can begin to get to know ourselves better.
At the same time we develop our ‘feeling’ connection; our capacity to feel deeply into our body where we find all the tensions, tightening, contraction and restrictions that have built up in our bodies. In the process we become more fully embodied. And the hold of the unproductive, unhelpful mind is loosened. This aspect of mind is a foreign installation that has ousted us away from our naturalness through unhelpful early experience. These include child rearing and educational practices, where criticism, judgement and ensuing punishments and/or humiliation have driven awareness and attention away from the body. There ensued a flight into the mind and away from the intolerable discomfort of ‘being’ in the body, under such circumstances. A mind state busily trying to work it all out, in an attempt to protect oneself and find ways of being that would not deliver these torturous consequences.
Unfortunately in the midst of ongoing unhelpful societal systems and practices, that are essentially inhospitable to humanity, we are delivered further and further away from our essential connectedness and naturalness of being. And the mind through an absorption of experience and the general milieu, takes on the judgement, condemnation and tormenting that drove us out of connection in the first place. These have become internalized and often function below consciousness. It is an insidious chipping away that wears down and undermines, leaving in its wake vulnerability and unsureness of self.
It is not surprising that mental illness (which broadly speaking affects the vast majority in one way or another) and prescription/street drugs to control these, have reached epidemic proportions. A scourge stretching through all classes and categories of peoples, and at the root of all dysfunction.
There is a way back; it is a process, it is a practice, it takes the time it takes, but little by little we begin to reclaim our true nature and towards a greater natural ease of being. It is finding and practising ways of going within, in order to switch on a light and open a door. It is a journey towards ‘sufficient’ stillness such that we can begin to ‘see’ and ‘feel’ in a fuller way. It is the work of building a strong self. It is the work of life.