I was leading a group a couple years back at a residential treatment center. It was a mindfulness group and we typically started with a real quick check in just to see what was up for people so we can speak more directly to how to work with reducing suffering, expanding the mind and connecting with the heart. Typical mindfulness stuff.
What was up for a couple people was the fact that their insurance might not cover them through the rest of the week and that they really wanted to stay. They had finally committed to the process of recovery and were anxious and angry that they were having to deal with “this bullshit” while in treatment. They were anxious, frustrated, angry, disheartened, scared… We talked about this for a little while and listened to their feelings, concerns and needs.
Then we shifted gears a little bit. I reminded them that although they might not want to hear it, that this, THIS MOMENT UNFOLDING RIGHT NOW, this was and is their entire lives. This is the spot. This is where they can learn to relate to life on life’s terms. They are always at the epicenter of their unfolding. This is where we all can figure out how to stop paddling up stream, pick up our oars, and learn how to struggle less while still feeling our feelings and working to get our needs met. THIS MOMENT is the only opportunity we get to cut the key that unlocks the door to freedom. When we are able to “pan out” and create the space to observe and relate to what is happening more objectively and can accept our life as it is unfolding [not “accept” in the terms of judgement, but accepting that it is what is happening] then we can pop the lock that keeps us locked in our own patterns of pain and suffering.
Part of what we were focusing on in the group that day was the Hero’s Journey as a helpful map and metaphor for our own narrative and path. I highlighted how their bravery, kindness and commitment to a 30-day residential treatment program was part of their own hero’s journey unfolding and invited them slow down and take a look at that. Slow down, be kinder to ourselves, and embrace our always unfolding Hero’s Journey.
An essential piece of a mindfulness practice is to deal with reality as it is unfolding. If your practice is strong, you can’t interrupt a mindfulness practice because it just constantly relating to what is unfolding both, internally and externally, with clarity and precision. We are cultivating the ability to relate to “the always unfolding” with skillful means to reduce your own suffering and the suffering of others.
At the beginning of the group I had asked the group members if they believe that coming to treatment was a detour for them. Initially three of the five said, “Yes. This is definitely a detour but I’m glad that I took it.” As we explored the Hero’s Journey and the Buddhist notion of “Right Understanding” as part of the Noble Eightfold Path, everyone agreed that it’s more helpful to view everything that happens in our lives as the next thing that will support us in becoming who we can be. Our lives are nothing other than our own personal Hero’s Journey unfolding. It is only once we are armed with this “Right Understanding” that we can have the courage to face the difficulties in our lives and have the fortitude and commitment to always face it with courage and bravery.