It's been one of those days today. You know, the kind that starts out well and spirals into mixed up feelings and emotions.
No point in me asking you if you’ve ever had a day like that because if you're human, you will have had good days and bad days. It’s just life and it’s all just thoughts spiraling out of control, creating your new reality.
However, I’ve been on this mindfulness journey for over a year. Surely I should have all this sorted by now. Every day should be calm and peaceful, but it isn’t. I've been emotional and angry one minute, sad the next and I don’t think I can even say the rest.
On days like this, I always fall back on mindfulness teachings and even some of the great Buddhist teachings I have been exposed to over the years.
Tonight I was lucky to take part in an online teaching given by Choden, who was a monk and now delivers mindfulness training. Choden explained that the “trademark” of mindfulness as taught by the Mindfulness Association is kindness and acceptance. Exactly what I needed to hear tonight because once again I spent the day being unkind and intolerable of my thoughts and feelings.
So how do you turn it around and go from having a really “bad” day to an “ok” or “good” day?
I think the most powerful teaching has to do with understanding what judgment or unmet desire we're fighting against. We always want things that give us pleasure or make us happy, so when we get something that is not what we want, we become unhappy, angry or frustrated. Recognizing why you are feeling a particular way makes it easier to understand and end unproductive inner dialogue.
The storytelling in our minds can be so destructive. Mine is always trying to work out why someone did or didn't say something, or why they did or didn't do something. Usually I am way off the mark, but spend all day in my head trying to work it out. Sound familiar?
The easiest thing to do is to recognize that you're trying to understand something that is unknowable and let it go. That’s where meditation is so useful, and after my bad day, I was so lucky tonight to have a guided meditation that focused exactly on this.
Acceptance just means stopping the war inside instead of trying to change whatever is going on, as well as not becoming too involved with the thoughts. Choden’s example of this was: “like inviting a troubled friend in for a tea, listening with kindness and just being there, giving your friend room to say what needs to be said.”
That is exactly what we all need to be doing more. Less battling with our own thoughts or circumstances that can't be changed, and more quiet listening with kindness and acceptance. Maybe then we can all have fewer “bad” days and more “great” days.