Mindfulness: a critical approach for dealing with inner pain & trauma

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Mindfulness: a critical approach for dealing with inner pain & trauma

In reflecting upon the question or challenge of how am I to deal with unwanted negative feelings and emotions that stem from observing global systemic breakdown manifested through climate change, terrorism, nation state breakdown, domestic violence, suffering by a growing refugee population and unsustainable social inequity, I don’t want to leap into identifying a solution for dealing with inner pain. That is for a little bit later in this blog ….  or the next blog. I want to explain why being mindful towards our emotions is so important for coping with disturbances within and around us.

We experience states of mind and heart and body called feelings and emotions, our affective state. These are aspects of self-awareness associated with somatic energy. This energy can move freely through our body, often without us being aware of it initially. It can be affected by blockages of an emotional, physical, psychological or spiritual nature. We react emotionally to external events ‘out there’ yet they can be shaped by the inner landscape of trauma (remembered or forgotten), projections and expectations. I may already feel, consciously or unconsciously what I ascribe to my response to what’s happening out there. For example, the despair I feel for the suffering refugees may also reflect, beyond simply empathy for their plight, my hidden fear or sadness about being marginalised or without home or being cast upon an endless sea of uncertainty and danger.

So it seems that, firstly, any affective state experienced from observing the sleepwalking of humanity into disaster are perfectly natural responses that need to be acknowledged without judgement or negation or distraction. They arise and they subside but they may also reflect a deeper ocean within ruffled by inner disturbances. Our affective states are an intimate part of being a self-aware being.  We are each self-conscious, feeling ego-oriented creatures that, like all of life, use energy and information within expanding circles of relationships to create and understand our individuality and our potential for recognising the Divine within and around us.

Secondly we need to remind ourselves when feeling the pangs of despair and fog of rage and the hollows of sadness that all emotions and feelings are a form of bio-feedback that allows us to understand ourselves and our world through the heart and body, often more honest communicators of our true responses than thoughts. So listen to to the inner felt sense of your responses and be grateful that you can feel without denial, addiction or numbing. This acknowledgement need not lead to allowing them to overwhelm your awareness and perspective. Our challenge is to become mindful of these inner states so that we can empathically observe them while remaining connected and loving in a human world so needing this.

Becoming mindful of our thoughts, emotions and bodily states therefore is the core process for self-empowerment that uplifts our awareness and consciousness shaped by empathic connection and self-love. To not be mindful is to be susceptible to a mindless capitulation to the maelstrom of negative energies storming within and around us. We make ourselves heavier by the gravity of anger or sadness or despair as much as the ‘real’ gravity pulls us down. Mindfulness allows us to pay attention and neutrally acknowledge the flow of inner experience, to remain engaged to witnessing the sufferings of human and other-than-human beings while creating the space of empathic distance from the arisen emotional response. In my next blog I will focus on why connecting with mind, body and heart helps in dealing with the emotional responses to observing our turbulent world.

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