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One Mind, Peace of Mind - Calm in the Face of Adversity

by Simon Cole(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 222 - May 2015

Peace is an Attitude of Mind

If you don’t believe me, picture the scene when you last felt totally at peace… lying in the sun on the beach; curled up by the fire with a good book; strolling hand in hand through the park with the person you love…  Are you there, completely, in your mind? Appreciate it, because I’m about to spoil it.

Now remember something that annoyed you… the colleague who always leaves their dirty coffee cup on your desk; the people who pushed onto the tube before you’d had a chance to get off; your boss giving you yet another ridiculous deadline… What’s happened to your total peace?

Try it again from the top, only this time, before you picture your peaceful scene, tell yourself that your peace is the most important thing, that peace is like a calm sea, that you can keep it with you come what may, that you can stay serene, with a stillness in mind. Go to your peaceful scene and feel good. Then let that annoying thing into your thoughts, but also keep in your mind the calm sea and being serene. Chances are you’ll be able to think about what annoyed you, but it won’t get you worked up.

 

Simon Cole 222 One Mind, Peace of Mind

 

So, you might find peace watching a sunset, or sitting on a beach or by a lake with the water lapping at your feet, but peace can also be a barefoot walk in Hyde Park with the roar of London traffic only a couple of hundred yards away, or sinking into the seat after you’ve just rushed for the bus.

Peace is an attitude of mind.

The Key is One Mind.

The trouble with our minds is that they’re everywhere. And all at once. We can’t literally think of two things at the exact same moment, but our minds flit so fast from one thing to another that it seems like that. It never stops. There is something going on all the time. What’s more, it often doesn’t have much to do with what is actually happening or what we’re actually doing. It’s babble. If we’re lucky it might be sensible commentary, but it’s more likely to be something from the past, or it might be something we’re guessing about the future, but it probably isn’t connected with right NOW.

If our minds are completely focused on what is around in the moment, they are either aware of what we are doing and keeping it going, or they’re reflecting on what we feel. Those are the only two possibilities.

Go back to your feeling of peace. You were bringing up a memory, which gave you your feeling of peace. If you wanted to, you could stay with this feeling and then the tale of that person who had annoyed you, would be just that… a story about something which had gone and didn’t have to disturb your calm.

And your Support is Now Mind

One of our problems as human beings is that we are always after things being better than they are right now. There are lots of ways we have benefited from this. It goes with being the species which has had the brainpower to imagine things as they could be, not just see them as they are. What it has meant is that we have progressed from being the hunter-gatherer who faced the sabre-tooth tiger, through the innovator who could make ever more sophisticated tools and machines, to the technologist who might explore even without always having an objective in mind. We might not all be quantum physicists, but we all have a little bit of that instinct to look beyond where we are right now. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s got us where we are, BUT… there’s always a flip side, and it has a habit of being negative. Like any medicine - if you take too much, it doesn’t cure you any quicker and it generally does harm. If we are always on to the next thing, we are likely to exhaust ourselves ‘chasing our tail’, we will start to be ineffective and then we will begin to get anxious; and if one thing is certain, it is that peace and anxiety are opposites.

Now mind breaks into that spiral of frenetic activity and escalating anxiety by being about something present and real. There’s no better time to try it out than right now. Start with something physical. If you can, sit down. Now breathe. No need for deep breaths - steady and even is more important. Notice your breathing - its steadiness and evenness. Keep on noticing it until your whole body is resonating with its steady even rhythm. This is now mind. If you want to, once you can feel this resonance in your body, you can let your thoughts drift to something that’s coming up, but do it at the pace of your breathing; if your mind starts galloping, check back with that breathing/body resonance. Set up the rhythm again before you let your mind go.

We really only can have one thought at a time, but that doesn’t mean that our body can’t autonomously be keeping the tempo, and then we can have one mind and peace of mind.

Just Do It

This fits in with how we think of mindfulness. When we are being mindful, we have our attention on what is immediately happening for us, without even making an issue of whether we like it or not but just being aware of what it is and how it’s happening. If it’s something which we are actually doing ourselves, then we are simply focused on doing it, like the Zen maxim, when you’re sitting just sit, when you’re standing just stand, when you’re washing up just wash up. (The last one is mine.)

In our case before, we were focusing on our breathing, but, more than that, we were focusing on the nature of our breathing, its steadiness and evenness. Just doing that gave us now mind. You could say it made us safe. And it gave us back the choice of what to do next.

Just doing something - one mind, without the background babble - is being mindful. And it brings peace.

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About Simon Cole

Simon Cole BA(Econ) MA(Counselling) PMBAP(Senior Accred) is a therapist, counsellor and meditation teacher at Le Sentier Tranquille in southern France. A philosopher, poet and walker, he seeks to help others along their own path of self-discovery and development. He is author of Stillness in Mind: a companion to mindfulness, meditation and living, published in 2014 by Changemakers Books www.stillnessinmind.com and Themed Meditations… along the quiet path both available on Amazon.

He may be contacted via simon.cole.france@icloud.com     www.stillnessinmind.com     www.life-counselling.co.uk

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