View this post on Instagram
A few years ago, I decided to take control over my own life and stop playing the victim card.
Although my reasons for falling into depression and anxiety were all valid and related to early childhood, I was sick and tired of finding myself in the same cycle each time I dove—heart first—into a new relationship with the false promise of a “happily ever after.”
Ever since, I’ve been exploring different healing techniques from yoga, meditation, reading mindful books, and taking walks in the park to my recent decision to join an intensive eight-week mindful meditation program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which teaches people how to take better care of themselves and deal with the daily stresses of life.
During our first orientation meeting, I met the lovely facilitator of the mindfulness group, a trained mental health nurse and a qualified MBSR teacher.
Shortly after going through the course syllabus, she gave each of us the opportunity to speak with her in private about any personal problems we thought might manifest and cause us pain during the course.
I didn’t expect myself to have much to say to her—I’ve never had a therapist properly diagnose what I thought was “wrong” with me—until I found myself sitting at a kitchen table across from her. She met me with her gentle eyes and a soft smile that revealed a deep compassion for strangers.
The next thing I knew, I found myself pouring my heart out to her while she gave me permission to cry, to let go, and to be as vulnerable as I felt, breaking the barrier of communication that we often build around strangers.
But what exactly in our conversation made me cry?
Perhaps it was the deep, heartfelt conversation, or the sincerity that I sensed in her voice. Or maybe it was the loving mother figure that I saw in her, which I’d never had in my relationship with my own mother. I can’t really tell. But there I found myself, opening up to a complete stranger, revealing some of my darkest insecurities and emotions.
In the beginning, I was fighting to hold back my tears. I felt ashamed of sobbing like a child in this woman’s kitchen.
But maybe, in giving me permission to let go, she also gave me a safe space where I felt heard, recognized, validated, and even loved. I felt that someone finally gave a damn about my years of feeling abandoned and lonely.
With a soft smile, she told me, “You have so much compassion. Now you just need to learn how to give yourself some of that back. And that’s what we’re about to learn here, in this course.”
Our conversation made me realize how connecting with a stranger on a soul level can give us some great, unbiased insight about ourselves.
It teaches us to soften the hardened parts within our hearts, let our guards down a little, and trust in the basic goodness of people. It also reveals how we’re all connected by the most common human stories, from early childhood trauma, heartbreaks, and loneliness to finding our purpose and place in a world that can often feel dark, lonely, and cruel.
But healing doesn’t always feel great.
When we say the word healing, we often think about this perfect state of inner calmness that’s bound to replace the emptiness we all feel at some point in our lives. We think that by being aware of this void and deciding that we must heal, our entire life will fall into place.
But we forget that healing can also feel raw and hard and real.
As one of my yoga teachers used to say, healing is like peeling off all the layers and breaking down the shells of protection we learned to build around ourselves. In deciding to heal, we unlearn our old patterns of unconscious living. This demands us to be fully present, mindful, and aware, and to embrace everything we might experience while in the process.
This is why choosing to walk along the mindful path, as liberating as it is, can be exhausting. We’re giving ourselves the space to observe and accept hurtful things as they arise, instead of our natural tendency to resist or push them away.
By learning how to apply mindfulness techniques, we start shifting from a state of “doing” to a state of “being,” which can be challenging when we live in a world where our value is measured by how much work we do, with little to no credit for who we really are.
But if we’re genuine in our quest to heal, we must strive to stay calm in face of these distractions. To simply know when to pause, take a deep breath in, and let go of everything that distorts our perception of the truth on the breath out.
Mindfulness is a powerful, if not an essential, part of therapy.
It can be practiced anywhere: at our kitchen table, in our car, while sipping our morning coffee, or in our workplace. It simply means doing things with an honest intention of being fully present, not just in our bodies as most of us do, but with our heart, mind, and soul—right here, right now. In this present moment.
If we’re holding back certain emotions from our past that have been haunting us, we must have the courage to open our heart and hold our emotions not with judgment and fear, but with compassion, the way we would do with a loved one.
For mindfulness to fully work, we must be willing to embrace the destruction that comes before healing.
And that’s where the real journey of healing begins.