Imagine a muddy pond. This little body of water has been stirred with a big stick, and the top half of it is now opaque with disrupted sediment and pond weed; a swirling mess of dirt.
Beneath this grimy turbulence lies a calmness; the serenity and purity of the pond. It’s clear and still. Here, at the bottom of the pond, sits peace.
This pond, and its separate halves, represents your busy mind and your heart. It is your heart that provides all you need to know about how you truly feel; where your authentic self sits; the core you. Your heart is the calm beneath the stormy surface waters, the muddy section above is representative of your thoughts and emotions.
Learning to drop down into the truth of your heart is a skill that requires practice and a consistent leaning into mindfulness.
I was out walking my dogs this morning and passed by several beautiful Rhododendron bushes, decorated with joyful, pink flowers. I looked at these flowers and had a lovely moment of recognition that this was my only reality – this present moment, the exuberant splash of colour, the bright blue sky. My amazing reality.
I wasn’t living in the reality of future, where catastrophising, anxious contemplation of what may or may not occur rules supreme, and I wasn’t sitting in the past, where sad or nostalgic reveries can sometimes take me wandering off down a path of vivid memories.
I was simply here. Experiencing all of the beauty of the moment.
In this place, the present moment that is free from our internal narratives, we are in touch with our heart – the bottom of the pond. It is here where we are able to think clearly, feel with clarity, know who we are and what we want. We are not the stories of our younger years, nor are we the fears of the future. We are just here, clean and pure.
How we locate this sensation of acute mindful awareness is perhaps not the same for us all. A method I often use is to drop my shoulders and breathe deeply, several times from my abdomen. Another favourite technique is to ask myself the following question; “But what is wrong with right now?” This serves as a prompt (it’s a tip taken from the Zen Buddhists) to snap us back into the here and now and away from the incessant chatter that is perpetually churning in our minds. A further means of tuning into our heart is to run through the ‘5 Things’ mindful ritual: notice five things that you can see, five things that you can hear, five things that you can touch.
Whatever the means of moving away from your narrative and into your heart you prefer, the benefits of doing so cannot be overstated. When we are living in the past or the future, we are effectively capping our potential. We are restricting our behaviour through fear or regret, limiting our self-belief through reenactments of past behaviours that are no longer a part of who or where we are in life.
Just think for a minute about a recollection of a time when you were on holiday, maybe as a much younger person when life felt very different. Conjure up the visualisation, see yourself as you were then – ten, twenty, thirty years ago. Notice what you were wearing and who you were with. Look around at your environment and hear what you’re saying. Now ask yourself, where is that scene right now? Does it exist? And if so, whereabouts is it?
The answer is that this scene exists only in your mind. It isn’t there anymore – not for you or anyone else. It has passed.
This exercise is helpful for strengthening our resolve in living in the moment – those pictures we run through in our busy minds are just that; pictures. The only us that exists is this one, the one sitting or standing wherever you are right now.