MINDFULNESS: THE STORIES WE TELL OURSELVES
Everyday we tell stories. Be it on stage, on set, in rehearsal, to our friends, our children. Of all the stories though, the most compelling, are those we tell ourselves. You know the ones - where we’re the superhero fighting crime, the star of our own critically acclaimed West End show or humbly accepting our Olivier. But there are also the other stories. Where we’re not good enough, not tall enough, not pretty enough, don’t earn enough, aren’t [fill in the blank] enough.
We tell ourselves stories to make sense of the world. But the problems start when we start believing these stories as capital-T “Truth” and start accepting the thoughts and feelings they evoke as facts.
As creatives, it’s all too easy to buy into these stories, to believe them; because after all it’s our job to do so, and the more convincingly we can do it the seemingly better we will be. Our imaginations can be our greatest asset and our biggest weakness. They are what allow us to imagine what it’s like to be an alien, to be a member of an Elizabethan court or what it’s like to lose a parent, lover, child.
But when lost in the excitement, how can we see ourselves and the world around us objectively? To appreciate the present moment? To be creative in such a practical, demanding, fast-paced society?
We must practice seeing ourselves with a little distance, training our ability to detach from our thoughts and building our awareness in whether these stories serve us, or not.
One way to do this is through mindfulness. That word seems to get bandied about nowadays but it is simply the process of bringing one's attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, and coming back when you realise you’ve become distracted or lost in thought.
Mindfulness is not a ‘think positive’ or ‘keep calm and carry on’ mindset. It teaches us to accept our thoughts and feelings for what they are rather than continually grasping for positive ones and avoiding negative ones. When we avoid or run away from them, we only make them stronger. When we show up to them, we diffuse their power over us. Much like how the Wizard of Oz seems all scary and powerful until Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals him for what he really is.