Guest post by Tatiana Padron Perich
Freedom is not just about transcending identity but embracing it until what is beyond the experience of identity reveals itself. – Larry Yang
The Path of Mindfulness
It has always caught my attention how the mind works – I have always tried to understand human behavior. Perhaps, because as an actress, I was always digging into the minds of my characters. Or maybe because I have seen the good and the bad of human nature. I have seen the suffering of people that have everything in life, but they are only focusing on what they don’t have. I have seen my own suffering as a part of the high percentages of depression, anxiety, stress and immune diseases in this world.
According to the American Psychological Association (2020), “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come”. And with COVID-19 hitting our lives in the past year, we are facing a disruption in our work, education, health care, in the economy and in our relationships with others. These are all examples of what are making us suffer and feel unhappy.
The truth is that the world we are creating has been focused only on providing us with the scientific method, which has been very important to everything that makes our life comfortable, no matter the consequences. Everything related to how we think, has been relegated to the field of sociology and the study of human behavior in groups, or the field of psychology and psychiatry when, as human beings, we are not able to “function” at the appropriate standard.
However, thanks to the recent look of other cultures into the study and development of the human mind and spirituality – a difficult word to apply to the scientific method – we are entering into an interesting moment in the study and recognition of the human mind and thoughts. More and more studies determine how, through meditation, we can generate profound changes in our level of consciousness, and how our thoughts generate certain actions, positive or negative, for our reality. In his book Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes how many current streams within epigenetics and neuroscience are revealing in new and indisputable ways that the world, and our ways of being in relationship to it, have significant and meaningful effects at every level of our being. Everything is interconnected.
Now we can state that we are what we think, and we are a product of our genetics, our upbringing (what we learned from those who raised us), and from our thoughts in how we observe the world, which can all determine who we are. Mindfulness and the latest discoveries in the development of thought have informed me that it is possible to change and it is possible to build the lives that we want. After many years of searching for answers, I believe human beings are trying to understand that the reality we create is conditioned, more and more every day, by the way we think.
Unlike other animals, human beings spend a lot of time thinking about what is going on around them, and contemplating events that happened in the past, might happen in the future, or will never happen at all. Apparently independent thoughts, or mind wandering, appear to be the brain’s default mode of operation. Although this ability is a remarkable evolutionary achievement that allows people to learn, reason, and plan, it may have an emotional cost. Many philosophical and religious traditions teach that happiness is to be found by living in the moment, and practitioners are trained to resist mind wandering and to “be here now”. These traditions suggest that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. And this statement doesn’t mean that this is right or wrong. This is the way our mind functions. Sometimes we are mindful and sometimes we are not.
How many times do we encounter ourselves doing a task and after we finish, we can’t even remember how we did it? The typical example is when we are driving. Sometimes we don’t remember how we got to the place we typically go. And this is not bad or good, but what I see is that we are spending a lot of our lives totally disconnected from our body and with our mind in another place. This disconnection is what usually leads us to feel vaguely dissatisfied. Jan Chozen Bays, in her book How to Train a Wild Elephant states, “ …this sense of dissatisfaction, of a gap between us and everything else, is the essential problem of human life.” (2011).
On the other hand, human beings tend to set everything in the human time. This means that we set our life in years, months, weeks and days, and we are expecting that the human issues should have been resolved in this way we create in this specific time. I believe time does not exist as we have been creating it in this world we live in. This is the 3rd dimension that we can see and touch. There is another dimension, where the time we know works differently. What I am trying to explain is when we are working with ourselves, basically with our mind, we are expecting to see results in a particular time and when we start to work with mindfulness, we understand that time does not really exist. It is like you are entering another way to live and perceive time and space. Just the present moment exists. When we understand this precept of time and space, we start to let it go, and then we will see changes in our behaviors and in the issues that used to be seen as a problem in our life. When the time comes, they just are not there anymore.
When people are dealing with trauma, depression, stress, or anxiety, they just want to wake up one day and discover as a miracle those issues never existed in their lives. Besides the stigma of feeling different, people just want to find something to take this out of their lives. In my experience, I have discovered that mindfulness is a journey of transformation, to encounter yourself in the dimension of the “here”, or right now. It’s a journey of acceptance, compassion, love, patience, discipline and a commitment to yourself, and then with others. And at some point of this trip, you will start to see the world around you differently, you will be more present so you will really fulfill your needs. Sooner or later, some of your demons will start to leave you because there is no more reason for them. And the most important part is that you will start connecting and understanding the interdependent reality and the interrelated nature of all reality itself.
Mindfulness Teacher Training has been part of my journey – a fascinating journey where, in the hands of an amazing group of Mindfulness Teachers, I have been learning and discovering with respect and patience the roots and the transformation with mindfulness.
Mindfulness and Transformation
I started to meditate on a regular basis 5 years ago. First, 20 minutes daily and then increasing to 45 minutes. After a couple weeks, I included mindfulness in my everyday life; I started to notice the difference in my behavior, feeling completely present and taking awareness of my body, my thoughts, my wandering thoughts, and I really started to understand my own thoughts, judgement, fears, and blocks in my everyday life. As soon as we increase the meditation and make this as a daily practice, the changes become more obvious; feeling calmed, more present, with a better response to stress, encountering more space to make choices and feeling happy. Those moments of complete awareness or “peaks” start to increase in our lives. Also, I noticed that mindfulness increased my compassion and understanding of others.
Mindfulness is a journey to take inside you. What was a huge deal a couple months ago, becomes something no longer bothering you. Things that make you feel stressed and unhappy change the perspective in your life. You start to live more at ease and happy. But the most important is how you can notice in others their frustration, their anger, their sadness; you will observe your world around you so clearly. It will increase compassion for yourself, because now you can see yourself through the mirror of another human being who is in the same state as you were.
I like to see this connection in different levels of consciousness, or energy connection. We all are connected; however, we are definitely connected more with some types of people than others. Why? Because our energy and this interconnection become clearer when we connect with ourselves.
The MTT program includes a complete general requirement to teach mindfulness to groups. It helped me to understand:
- The attitudes of mindfulness as “the major pillar of Mindfulness practice” (Zabat-Zinn); non-judging, patience, beginner’s mind, trust, non-striving, acceptance, letting go, gratitude, generosity, and compassion. The last three are the root of mindfulness and where we are going to lead others.
- The embodiment of our mindfulness practice, reflected in our presence and behavior in present moment focus, present moment responsiveness, calmness and vitality, allowing, natural presence, authenticity and potency, connection and acceptance, compassion and warmth, curiosity and respect, and mutuality.
- The compassion and ethics that come with teaching mindfulness
- The importance of incorporating the foundations of mindfulness, mindful movement, mindful eating, and mindful walking.
- How we can teach safely with diverse groups by being trauma informed and understanding the importance of languaging and inquiry
Not all meditation groups practice inquiry and I believe this is one of the gifts of the MTT program. We do not know what happens in the world of every human that comes to meditate. Communication and language are important keys to support and reflect on the practices and about your experience. When we are open to inquiry, we can learn from ourselves and the experiences of others. It is a great opportunity to deepen your connection and ground in your community. All these teachings created a body of knowledge that we incorporated into our practice and helped me understand the impact we have in others teaching mindfulness to others.
The Awareness of Life
My learning through the MTT has involved a deepening and a broadening of experience. When I started practicing mindfulness 15 years ago, I was more focused on my personal growth and finding answers to my own concerns about the functioning of the mind and its impact on human behavior. Now, I am observing how the teaching of mindfulness impacts the lives of other people. Through a simple practice, such as learning to focus on your breath or on any other anchor systematically for a period of time, we can develop levels of consciousness and personal growth much deeper than we can imagine. And I think the greatness of this work is that it reveals the depth of knowledge of the human soul through the purest and simplest connection.
One of the classes that impacted me the most personally was the one on sensitivity to trauma. Understanding trauma from a mindfulness point of view was meaningful to me because of what happened to me, my traumas, my anxieties and the whole package that I brought with me since I emigrated to the United States.
The Greek word trauma means “wounded” and primarily refers to the physical wound. However, we know trauma from the psychological perspective refers to emotional “wounds”. I believe as the human body can heal a wound, regenerating the cells of our flesh, we can also heal our emotional or psychological wounds. The science of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are making great strides in understanding human self-healing, and now through mindfulness, we are experiencing additional advances in this area.
I am passionate about the subject of trauma and it has been a major focus in my readings in recent years: Jon Zabat-Zinn’s mindfulness and stress reduction, Peter A, Levine’s “Healing Trauma”, and Daniel Taroppio’s shamanic or primal dances. Mindfulness can be the first step to connect with ourselves and start reconnecting with our inner voice. The wonderful thing about mindfulness is the path that we have ahead of us to continue investigating the potential of human beings to regenerate and self-heal in ways that scientific knowledge has not yet been able to decipher.
I learned, through the guidance of teachers, the importance of understanding and being sensitive to the experiences of others. Any stimulus, be it visual, oral, or kinesthetic, can trigger an emotion or a negative reaction. There are many ways a single word can be understood. Working with people of different cultures and races leads you to understand the complexity of human nature from a much more compassionate and loving perspective. As a mindfulness teacher, I recognize the importance of creating an inclusive and safe environment for my meditators.
Despite all the negativism and challenges that come at us in our daily lives, for me the world remains a space full of hope for humanity. We have before us a path of discovery of the nature of the human mind that I believe will radically impact the scientific world and generate changes still in hypothesis, for the benefit of human health and self-healing.
Bays, Jan Chozen (2011). How to Train a Wild Elephant: and Other Adventures in Mindfulness. Shambhala.
American Psychological Association (2021). Coronavirus Stress: Majority of Americans Never Imagined Pandemic Would Last This Long.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2013). Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Bantam Books.
Levine, Peter A. (2012). Healing Trauma: a Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body. ReadHowYouWant.
Taroppio, Daniel (2012). El vínculo Primordial: Un Camino Hacia El corazón De La evolución Universal, El Desarrollo Personal y Las Relaciones Humanas. Continente.