by Brooke Van Allen
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”
This quote started a cleansing whirlwind within my mind and soul from which I would never return. Mindfulness had been sitting outside my window staring at me, inviting me in for years. I had to open the window to mindfulness myself, because no matter how many times people in your life tell you that you need to wake up and open your eyes, only you can choose to embark on this journey for yourself.
Coming home to my own breath and my own light brought me to a place of safety and wholeness that I had never felt before. Mindfulness is not some foreign trait or concept that only certain, special people can attain; it is simply the ability to sit with myself. It is almost humorous to me how little there really is to it. I used to view meditation and the concept of mindfulness as one more thing on my to-do list, one more thing I could never perfect. What I soon came to realize, is that every single person has the beautiful capability to sit, breathe, and know that just that is enough.
The small lessons I’ve learned in each meditation practice apply to my daily life entirely. As I sit and breathe and focus on nothing but the smooth inhale and exhale of life, it is absolutely inevitable to notice my human-ness shine through in the form of scattered thoughts.
When a teacher acknowledged this, telling us that it is normal and the entire purpose is to sit with yourself through it all, I had a small but quite life-changing breakthrough. I have always struggled with accepting how I feel instead of shaming myself and pushing my thoughts and feelings away (which had the undesirable effect of blowing up the entire situation 1000 times). When I was told to watch my thoughts pass by in non-judgmental way, breathing with where I was at in that exact moment instead of pretending that I was in a state that I was not, I felt self-acceptance on a level I never had before.
Self-acceptance and self-awareness go hand in hand. I do not think that one is truly possible without the other. The more that I sat with my breath, my mind, and my raw soul, the more I became aware of who I truly am. For me, this required some time in isolation with no company except my own thoughts. I came to know the person that has been reaching out to me for years — my genuine self. I noticed the relationships in my life start to flourish in the gentlest of ways. When we spend time sitting with ourselves in silence and hearing our own voices clearly, we bring out true selves to the table and tend to be more accepting of everyone else as well. This is self-love and wholeness at their purest. Without self-compassion, the world knows no compassion at all.
Everyone has their own light inside themselves and the ability to quiet outside noise and listen from within. When I found this within myself I began to see it in everyone, and I felt a deep connection to and love for every being on earth. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I am always with my mind and in the moment. I am finding it much easier to peacefully and joyously cherish the beautiful moments in my life while I am in them instead of letting the inevitable fact that they will end spoil it for me. When living mindfully and fully in this way, I am not sad when the moment is over because I know I was all there, soaking it up in its entirety.
I now have a daily gratitude journal in which I write down everything in the past 12 hours that I am grateful for. This keeps me mindful throughout the day of each and every moment and all it has to offer. The quiet moments of life such as sitting outside in the morning and listening to the birds open my mind to the richness of life to be grateful for. Full compassion, acceptance, and love in every raw moment of life.
When we are mindful, we naturally practice gratitude and that alone is enough to rewire a chaotic mind. Each moment is a gift of which we are each fully deserving, and there is always space to quiet the mind, notice the breath, and feel at peace. Now that I am here, I am really here.
When I walked the labyrinth at Copper Beech on my first retreat, I placed a stone at the center on which I wrote, “I am whole, I am love.” Each and every being is completely whole and embodies love; it is only a matter of bathing in the light that has been trying to pour down on us for a lifetime.
Brooke Van Allen was a summer intern at Copper Beech Institute.