‘Mind the gap’ is a relatively common phrase. It highlights a concern for the possibility of plunging into a (deep) hole.
When I was in the thick of perinatal mental illness I was consumed by thoughts and feelings. I had, in essence, fallen into an abyss that separated me from day-to-day living and rendered life impossible to enjoy.
My biggest light bulb moment came reading a book in the bath. I had ordered Teasdale and Segal’s ‘The Mindful Way Through Depression’ on a whim. I’d been through therapy and was starting to see grey instead of heavy black, with the odd chink of sunlight emerging.
It was a time that allowed me the perspective I couldn’t achieve when in the ‘eye of the storm’. I became aware of a subtle shift in perception that identified a distance between me and my thoughts. It seems blindingly obvious now but at the time I identified 100% with the passing stream (OK tide) of mental imagery that locked me in a place of inertia.
Simply put, I believed my thoughts. I was having them, right, so they had to be legit?
When I came to realise that the thoughts and feelings were transient and not ‘me’ I was able to take the vital step back which allowed me breathing space. Even physically, I remember exhaling in the bath as if letting go of months of tension that had held me in its rigid grip.
We miss the gap because we assume too much. We assume that we are the story we are told or tell ourselves. We associate so closely with this that we lose critical perspective and this can dangerously distort the way we live our lives.
What if we hold this in our awareness and recognise that we are the space in which our thoughts and feelings come and go? We then become Tolle’s ‘silent observer’ who can take a gentle step back from mind association and learn to live in the moment, allowing spacious consciousness.
Semantics has done mindfulness no favours, as it’s somehow transformed into a ‘vogue’ practice that suggests the involvement of thinking – something we ‘must’ do more of to ‘better ourselves’ when in fact it is an ‘unlearning curve’. It’s the act of taking away all perceived pressure, the removal of past and future that enables us to connect to the incredibly liberating depth of the present moment.
Resistance to ‘what is’ is one of the greatest causes of suffering. When I experienced PND I railed against it with every fibre of my being. I wanted to rid myself of it and the more I persisted, the deeper into the abyss I fell. Only when I became aware of the gap between my true self and the thoughts and feelings that were constantly beckoning me in, was I able to break the cycle that was exacerbating my negativity.
Next time you find yourself consumed by thoughts and feelings, look out for that gap. In that tiny, seemingly insignificant moment, you may just have stumbled across something really quite illuminating.
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