What’s all this about a raisin?
My initial experience of mindfulness was extremely positive and enormously helpful. It wasn’t a ‘programme’, it wasn’t what has become the consensus reality of examining a raisin, it was simple and authentic.
Certainly, mindfulness is about being present in the moment, about really noticing what is happening around us, to us, and within us. After all, how many times do we pick up our mug of tea to find that it is empty, that we drank it without even realising it; or we arrive at our destination but don’t really remember the car journey to get there? Our lives could certainly be better if we paid more attention to what was really happening with us.
The raisin is used as an example of how much we really notice – what do we see when we really examine it, when we pay attention with all our senses? How does the raisin feel? How does it smell? What do we notice when we place it on our tongue and so on. Yes, it is a useful exercise to show us how much we take for granted, after all it’s just a raisin isn’t it?
So, what happens when we notice things that we don’t particularly like? Does that inner voice start criticising and casting judgement? More often than not the answer is yes. With mindfulness we begin to learn to simply accept those thoughts without judgement. I’m curious to see if we are able to welcome them.
They are there for a reason after all. There is a positive intention behind these thoughts and they are trying to tell us something. We are not always able to understand the message, nor are we always ready to receive the message but we can welcome them nonetheless.
I was once told to welcome them as you would welcome guests to your home. This made me smile. My parents were extremely hospitable and when we had guests there were more than a few who were described as “suffering the after effects of an excess of hospitality”! Yes, guests were generally welcome with a tipple or three of their choice. So now, in my head, when the thoughts come, I welcome them as I would guests to my home; I (mentally) pour them a gin and tonic and ask them to make themselves comfortable; if I need to get things done I invite them to come with me, checking that they still have a fresh G&T and to bring it with them. When I and they are ready, I hear the message. No more fighting them off, no more stressing over negativity, no dread or fear about having to go through another battle. They are welcome, I acknowledge their presence and their positive intention, they have an important message and when we are both ready, I hear that message.
Mindfulness is certainly about being present in the moment and noticing and it is about not judging ourselves; it is also about acceptance and compassion. Rarely do we accept ourselves fully without judgement and rarely do we show compassion to ourselves; if we do not begin to do this with ourselves, how then can we hope to accept others and be compassionate towards them?
Mindfulness has shown me how to be kinder to myself, to be more appreciative of small wonderful things (yes even raisins!) and it is helping me to be more compassionate to myself and others and how to really thoroughly enjoy a good cup of tea!
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