Living in Full Colour
When we are experiencing pain, we want to experience no pain; when we are experiencing fear, we want to not feel fear; and when we are experiencing sadness, we want to find joy. Humans have a natural tendency to embrace pleasure and resist pain, and our subconscious minds have evolved a number of crafty tricks and shortcuts to get us from an unpleasant state to a more pleasurable one.
Our unconscious defence mechanisms might make us feel slightly better for the moment. However, the problem is that our subconscious mind is working in an automatic and unthinking way that doesn’t always consider what will serve us best in the long-term. The unconscious pushes us toward actions that will move us from pain to pleasure as quickly and as economically as possible, but the unconscious has no interest in resolving or addressing the root of the discomfort that we face.
As we push pain, fear, regret, sadness, disgust from our conscious mind we are only repressing it, pushing it back to the furthest reaches of our unconscious, from where it will inevitably rise again in new and potentially more painful ways. But a regular mindfulness practice enables us to be able to notice this internal conflict and the automatic tricks that our subconscious mind uses to make us feel better as quickly as possible.
Mindfulness doesn’t teach us to deny the experience of anger and boredom, or to tell ourselves that if we just think about things differently that we can get rid of those negative experiences. Mindfulness does not get rid of sadness, frustration, or disappointment, but it does help us to intervene in the reflexive actions of our mind that can make these experiences more painful and more lasting.
If we’re able to consciously recognise, just for the moment, why we are experiencing these negative states we become better able to pursue a course of action that is in best service of ourselves and others. This form of acceptance is not a passive resignation toward negative experience, but a willingness to recognise that we can control how we respond to that experience. In mindfulness training we don’t repress emotions or pretend that we don’t care about the challenges that we face in our lives — negative experiences are…