Mindfulness Meditation: A Fundamental Practice for Living from Our Heart
Transformation is always marked by chaos and confusion. Death always precedes birth, and the pause between the two offers us time to review and contemplate how we have been living, who we have become and how we need to transform. Only after conscious evaluation, can we release what is toxic and emerge healthier and anew. Without an orientation through the chaotic terrain of transformation currently upon us, we risk clinging to the familiar and toxic patterns that have endangered our future. A contextual map can be helpful to prevent us from making choices from fear rather consciousness. This is necessary, maybe even critical for a healthy new birth. In our present collective cycle of transformation, conscious choices will, in fact, determine the very future of humanity. Let’s break this down to understand it more clearly.
From a psycho-spiritual context, it can be said that we have two selves that define human existence, the True Self and the False self. The True Self is our true nature, one we are born with that resides deep within us, often forgotten beneath our adaptations for survival. The values of the True Self are based on truth, love and a quest for wholeness. This is the part of us we must eventually connect with if we desire any level of meaning in our lives. Our connection with our True Self is endangered by our identification with the adapted or False self, the formation of which is molded and conditioned by our family and society at large. The False self helped us survive when we were young, assisting us in integrating into and ‘belonging’ to society (the collective). The catch is, it is society that decides what we should value when we are young. Society only values ‘what people desire.’ This is the stuff of advertising, seducing us into desiring what is being sold out there, from moment to moment throughout our lives.
Many of the values society upholds and glorifies are associated with the pursuit of money, power, fame and status. These are not of any importance to our True Self. Our True Self is unifying, relational and collaborative, and functions primarily from Universal laws, the substance of the worlds religious teachings, which guide us towards love and authenticity. It also values living from integrity and health. Sadly, society is threatened by these values, and pits them against the pursuit of money, power, fame and status. Despite this threat, connecting with the True Self is in fact, our primary task in the second half of life, when our quest for wholeness quickens as our time on earth grows short and our need for being more intrinsically aligned gains urgency.
Simply stated, the True Self values “re” words such as: re-membering, re-claiming, re-connecting, re-lating, re-integrating, re-storing, re-uniting and re-creating. “Re” words are the language of the Feminine Principle, and the last two years of the Pandemic have shown us that our adaptations to the patriarchal infrastructure our society has normalized do not honor these ways of living in the world.
Patriarchy can be defined as toxic masculinity, a dominating and aggressive energy that demands obedience and punishes those who defy it. It is wielded by both men and women, and has been normalized and glorified by the cultural collective. Our behaviors that support this way of being have become a threat to our very existence. We have all been conditioned to adapt to Patriarchal values through behaving from the “de” words, the language of Patriarchy: de-manding, de-grading, de-valuing and de-humanising, which leave us with feelings of de-moralization, de-adening and de-stroying our relationship to ourselves, one another and the earth itself.
The insidious nature of Patriarchy cloaks its intentions and behaviors in words that mislead and manipulate to separate, extract and dominate. Being dominated always evokes fear, and manipulates us to become complicit and complacent. We are always vulnerable to Patriarchy’s seductive ways and risk normalizing these while denying their toxicity and second guessing ourselves. Since society normalizes this, we are conditioned to adapt unless we have some level of connection with our True Self. This is ultimately our life saving radar, an inner guidance system we must rely on more and more as we age, to keep us free from the grip of toxic and familiar patterns that drive individual and collective behaviors resulting in an erosion of love and meaning for each and every one of us.
The current state of our world is urgently in need of deep change, and we must reclaim the sanctity of our existence in relation to our life on this dynamic yet finite plant. Transformation always encourages us to awaken and observe our reality without projecting illusion or magical thinking upon it. This is hard to do, but necessary and vital for us to stay awake to the danger of adapting to unhealthy ways of living.
Patriarchy is the disease of our time, and to heal any disease, it must first be named and then exposed. To heal ourselves and the society we are a part of, we can no longer align with any methods or behaviors that are fundamentally patriarchal. As each one of us gains clarity and courage to step away from these patterns and behaviors, only then can a healthier masculine and feminine foundation emerge and replace the toxic one our society is dependent upon. I view our experience of the Pandemic as a difficult yet necessary opportunity to detoxify and release our normalization of meaningless values upheld by our collective False self.
Given this is where we are, how can we begin to re-claim our health and make contact with our True Self, since our very survival has relied on our ability to (unconsciously) adapt to Patriarchy? Any shift away from familiarity can feel like a profound threat to our survival. Stepping away for what has been familiar for nearly five thousand years can also trigger feelings of isolation and fear and keep us stuck in our identification with the False self. After all, any prior attempts to reorient ourselves around our True Self may have angered people we love, causing us to second-guess ourselves in favor of how they wanted us to behave. When I began to awaken to these realities, I was surprised to find myself in the company of many others also in a similar process. It was really not that lonely. It takes desire and courage to leave unhealthy ways of behaving in favor of new, healthier ways. It is also necessary to engage patience and self-compassion on the journey towards health. These are skills we were seldom taught, and ones that can greatly assist us as we reclaim a more authentic way of being in the world.
“How,” you may ask, “do I begin?” “How can I begin to feel a connection to my True Self?”
Simple practices can be very helpful in connecting us with our true nature. Age old, and time tested practices like Mindfulness Meditation can serve as powerful tools that can assist in making contact with our true nature.
Mindfulness Meditation is the practice of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It has been shown to be extremely effective when practiced regularly. At first, for as little as 5 seconds per day, then more frequently, pause and bring your attention to the present moment without judgement. Your mind will be busy evaluating and judging, commenting and growing impatient. Let it. Continue watching it all as if taking inventory at first, then let it chatter without engaging your attention. Let the waves of thoughts come and go and observe them rather than letting them control you. Increase the increments of time you spend practicing this. When practiced more frequently, you may begin to feel a deeper connection with your heart and a softening of your relationship with yourself. Mindfulness is a gentle practice. It is a non-threatening, powerful way to connect with your True Self. Over the last 25 years, Mindfulness Meditation, when practiced regularly, has been shown to positively impact biochemical and neural pathways, lower stress hormones and effect moderate improvements in anxiety, depression , pain and stress. In fact, neuro-imaging studies have repeatedly demonstrated a significant reduction of signals in the areas of the brain activated by the fight-and-flight response, the amygdala, while subjects were engaged in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
I consider the practice of Mindfulness Meditation as a gateway for connecting with our True Self, mostly ignored and forgotten in favor of the False self. It can sometimes be difficult to begin the practice of Mindfulness Meditation because of the unfamiliarity of this approach in our society. However, once learned, it can serve as a faithful ally during difficult times. Although simple in theory, it can be difficult to learn on your own. A teacher is important for learning the practice correctly, which can prevent the mental pitfalls that emerge at first. These can discourage us from continuing, so we are best served by a certified instructor who can teach Mindfulness Meditation as our skilled guide.
Connecting to and living from our True Self is our urgent imperative at this time. It is in the present moment where we plant the seeds for our future. If we desire a better future than where we have arrived, wouldn’t it be useful to be awake in this moment, so we can choose more consciously from a place of depth and meaning?
Practicing Mindfulness is a good place to begin. Give it a try. It is an excellent practice to reduce stress, anxiety and fear and restore inner peace. It may just bring you the relief you have been longing for.
For classes and instruction in Mindfulness Meditation, please call The Ommani Center at 262-695-5311. We offer individual and group classes both remotely and in person by a certified instructor. Patient safety during the Pandemic is our first priority.
©January2022 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI. www.ommanicenter.com Author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife (2nd Edition), Medial Press, 2014. Dr. Kumar is currently accepting new patients. Call 262.695.5311 for an appointment, either virtual or in-person for those free of symptoms.