Some time ago, I set an intention to hug myself every morning. It was probably based on the suggestion of Dr. Kristin Neff, a mindful self-compassion expert.
Did I end up doing it? Not every morning—not even close to every morning. But what’s interesting is that the intention is now there in my mind—sometimes at the forefront, and other times, at the back. I would never have even considered hugging myself every morning some years ago.
This is not an article about self-compassion, however. Here, I write of my memories and reflections about my first foray into mindfulness. I share the pieces of reminiscence that linger in my mind years later.
The mindfulness group facilitator was a lovely man, and a doctor with Parkinson’s disease. Back then, such groups were not so clearly separated into MBCT (Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy), MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), MSC (Mindful Self-Compassion) and so on, as they are now, but I would say it was an MBCTSR group for chronic pain warriors.
While the doctor was interviewing me for the group, I remember my judging mind wondering what the heck I was doing there and what I could possibly get out of the experience.
I also recall calling up a friend before the start of the group, to promise not to become one of those people—those people who do Yoga at random on an empty patch of concrete on our university campus; those people who walk around in a daze that they surely think is blissful, but which we, who of course know better, see as zombie-like.
When I see people doing Yoga and meditation out in public now, I understand their intention and even feel a slight sense of envy.
Funnily enough, when I see people doing Yoga and meditation out in public now, I understand their intention and even feel a slight sense of envy.
I remember being told that each group session would be two hours long, which felt like forever when I could barely manage to stay in one position for a few minutes at a time. At first, I could not tolerate sitting in the group. In fact, I kept trying to leave the circle.
It wasn’t only my physical discomfort that caused this issue, I was inadvertently trying to separate myself from everyone else, as if to say, “I’m not like you.” I did not want my life to be as sad as theirs seemed. I did not want to accept that sense of desperation that was already there.
The doctor was persistent in quietly asking me to join the group. I was so annoyed with him. How dare he?! What an unreasonable demand, to ask me to actually join the group that I had joined! I did it, though.
Frowns replaced by smiles
Giving myself over to being part of the group felt awful. It also gave me space to face my fears and to realize that we are all human. Whether we like it or not, we are all in the same boat.
I remember reading in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, that while patients started his mindfulness course with forlorn expressions on their faces, by the end of it, the frowns were replaced by bright smiles. My rose-coloured glasses are telling me this is precisely what happened in our group.
I don’t want to mislead you: I was by no means ‘cured’ of pain and suffering by the end of the course. In fact, many of the attendees, including myself, were quite disappointed that mindfulness did not magically take away our pain—not that we expected it to, as we were all critics, but we had surely hoped for that outcome. And yet, we could smile by the end.
We’re all passengers in the same boat
Wherever you are in your mindfulness adventure, know that you are not alone in your doubts, concerns and other experiences. We are all in the same boat. Yes, passengers sit in different parts of the boat. We can see the individual differences between passengers, which can make us feel all kinds of things. Sometimes, we want to crawl out of the boat or push someone else out of it. However, to add to the famous Kabat-Zinn quote, “Wherever you go, there you are,” I propose, “and so are other people.”