Rules Learnt whilst “locked down” with a tough, but mindful Teacher on a Survival Course
He took us boys down the rugged coast for a week without food. Maybe 80 kilometers. He taught us along the way about life and spirituality without saying much.
Rule 1 – Live Mindfully
The foundational survival rule is to live mindfully -fully satisfied in the moment, fully aware, full of compassion for yourself and others and therefore with acceptance and without judgement.
Any other way, any other thought, will lead to a waste of precious energy and resources.
In other words, do not make too much of an issue of your circumstances. Acceptance is good.
Rule 2 – Keep to routines
As far as is possible en where possible, keep to your normal routine.
Rule 3 – The Third Day
If your survival course is a week long, by Wednesday you will experience the lowest point psychologically and physically. You will feel bad in all respects. But this point comes to everyone in a unique way, so we just say that you will have your “third day” when you really feel miserable- from that point onwards, however, things should improve.
Rule 4 – Drink a lot of water
You can survive a week without food, but not water. Within a short time your stomach will shrink and you will not be hungry – believe it or not. However, since you are not really on a survival course, keep on eating. This is just an illustration of your endless capabilities.
Rule 5 – Keep Energy Bars in the bottom of your Back Pack
That is what the assistants on the real survival course did.
Keep a little bit of the difference somewhere.
Rule 6 – Always under all circumstances maintain good Hygiene
As a barest minimum, brush your teeth regularly. Look neat.
Rule 7 – This is where you meet Your God
Open yourself up to it. Do not fight the spiritual awakening. Accept it. Sitting in the veld or in the garden helps. Or just in the sun in your room. Mindfully aware and without the normal clutter of civilization.
Rule 8 – Light and darkness are one
Accept each in an equal manner with equanimity. Night follows day. It serves no purpose to fight the night. Accept it and learn from it. Then there will be a daybreak.
Rule 9 – Take everything Step by Step
He took us without food down a rugged coast. Rugged. Along the rocks. Fording rivers. Finding paths far above the high tide. Running before the tide. Roughing it badly. Sleeping in hollows.
There is only one way to do this, and that is step by step.
Rule 10 – Lean in
This is another fundamental rule, there is no turning around. There is no escape route. Back is bad, forward may be better.
There is only leaning into the future.
Rule 11 – Respect Nature
Have you noticed how nature just continues on its journey even though we are locked down in home shelter? There is irony here and a lesson to be learnt.
Respect nature and her abundance of resources. We do not have a right to it, only the privilege. We must respect nature.
Rule 12 – Work Together
It was tough learning how to work together with boys you do not know. We came from a lot of places. Thrown together. A rough mix.
It was made tougher because we did not know how to survive. The teacher did not help, but he did talk about the Rules (excluding 5), not calling them rules, but discussing the themes.
Otherwise he just pointed forward, asking us to Lean In.
Always a Decade of Hope and Resilience, being Mindful
The decade will always be with and about Hope and Resilience. This is 1. because we believe in the power of finding joy in the present (being mindful), and 2. because up to the outer edges of this decade and beyond are immense opportunities. In short, we have time, if we stay safe now. You can read that post HERE.
Mindfulness, Uncertainty and Covid-19
In this post, which you can read HERE, we wrote that “…we must have a clear knowledge that we are robust enough and have the resilience to survive this and thrive. We must know this on a personal level and as a common humanity.
How we think about this virus is extremely important. We must know that we are robust and resilient enough to survive if we follow the basic advice of washing hands, not touching our faces and lowering our expectations- what we have, where we are, for now, is good enough.“
Dr Émile Coué – an aware and compassionate man ahead of his time
How we think about how we are now, is extremely important. Dr Émile Coué, French pharmacist and psychologist, (about whom you can read more on the Wikipedia Page HERE) “…when asked whether or not he thought of himself as a healer, … often stated that ‘I have never cured anyone in my life. All I do is show people how they can cure themselves.’
Coué believed in the effects of medication. But he also believed that our mental state is able to affect and even amplify the action of these medications. By consciously using autosuggestion, he observed that his patients could cure themselves more efficiently by replacing their ‘thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure’ “. (Wikipedia)
Coué’s mantra was “Every day in every way, I am getting better and better.
Mindfulness and getting Better and Better
Modern research and approaches support Dr Coué. Dr Mariki Smith writes in her mindfulness course, Six Steps to the Joy of Nowness, (you can learn more about that HERE) in the chapter on Compasssion:
“Self-judgement, or criticising the self, is something we all do. For some reason we use it as a way to motivate ourselves. But … research shows that it doesn’t work.
If I “attack” myself with words like “you’re useless… you will get nowhere in life…” I am tapping into my reptile brain. My brain recognises that there is a fight which it experiences as dangerous, and as a result releases cortisol and adrenaline. When I am in fight-or-flight mode, I put my body in constant stress. My body then tries to protect itself, shuts down, and I become depressed. This kind of motivation obviously doesn’t work.
On the other hand, mammal babies are very dependent on their parents, and have to stay close to them to be safe. We are programmed to respond to a gentle voice and soft touch. If I recognise my negative self-talk, and I change to motivating myself from the mammal-brain, If I receive compassion from myself and others, I release oxytocin and opiates, which are the good-feel hormones.”
The Mindful Way to Healing
Have pro-active compassion with yourself and with others. Be nice to yourself. If you feel unwell stay nice to yourself. Tell yourself often that you are getting(feeling/being…) better (stronger…) and better (…) every day.
Do it often, every time you wash your hands.
Be nice to other people. I they feel unwell, stay nice to them. Tell them often how well they are doing. Teach them the Coué mantra and how to use it.
Teach others that a simple self-compassion exercise such as this has immense benefits.
Do not stop using prescribed Medication.
“Every time we are truly mindful, we nourish the precious intention to care for ourselves and for other people.” (Teasdale, Williams and Segal).
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama
“Mindfulness is difficult, not because it is hard, but because it is elusive.” (Dr Stephen Hayes, Get out of your mind and into your life, the New Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, New Harbinger Publications)
Mindfulness requires guidance in the beginning. Other than the resources here at fsmindfulness.co.za, there are resources on our learning platform HERE.
Our short sweet experiential course on Breathing Mindfully, which you can find HERE, is free for the time being.
Stay safe, trust the journey…
1 January 2020 – 31 December 2029
Exploring the outer-reaches and far corners of this decade**
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all.”– Emily Dickinson
As we enter a new decade full of mystery, unexpected change, uncertainty and unknown challenges, we tend to become stuck in our maladaptive coping habits. We easily become busy and distracted. We ‘fake it till we make it’, instead of ‘face it till we make it’. We tend to live in avoiding-autopilot rather than becoming aware of the hope and resilience we daily receive.
The poem “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers”, written by Emily Dickinson in 1862, transforms hope into a bird that is ever present in the human soul. It sings, especially when times get tough. If we allow ourselves to become quiet enough amid our loud and busy days, we may experience and share this song so much easier during pleasant and unpleasant times. Then, although we still find ourselves sometimes lost and overwhelmed, we can get back on our feet so much sooner.
Resilience refers to the ability to remain determined and maintain positive affect and well-being despite failures and setbacks. The Japanese proverb “Nanakorobi yaoki” describes this well: “fall seven times, stand up eight”. When we become resilient, we adapt and make allowance for moments of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress.
Daniel Siegel (2007) taught that mindfulness practice is scientifically proven to develop a long-term state of resilience by enhancing physical, mental and social well-being (2007).
Being resilient does not mean that we don’t experience difficulty. It rather refers to becoming aware of our emotional pain, fear and sadness non-judgmentally, with a kind curiosity. Research suggests that feelings can’t be changed by (positive) thinking, but only by awareness and regulation of feelings.
Emotions are possibly your greatest source of instincts, intelligence, and energy. All emotions contain genius, and our emotions are crucial for thinking, learning and understanding others. Therefore, it becomes crucial to practice daily leaning into feelings, by means of mindfulness.
Mindfulness takes us out of automatic doing-mode, so we can practice better hope and resilience by means of self- and other-compassion, connection with loved ones, awareness and regulation of our feelings, focus on in-the-moment planning and problem-solving, healthy self-care and acceptance of life as it is.
The practice of being fully present is a way to reclaim hope and resilience. It is a personal journey for all of us. By leaning into how you are feeling both physically and mentally, you can connect and accept life as it is, moment by moment.
Here at the Free State Institute for Mindfulness, and at our online learning platform, 360smartly.com, we don’t aim to generate mindfulness teachers. Our intention is to remind ourselves and our fellow human-beings in moments of uncertainty and change, that mindfulness belongs to everyone.
We were all born being capable of being aware in-the-moment, with a kind curiosity… whether we are drinking coffee, talking to loved ones, or facing a challenging moment. As we learn to embrace our pleasant and unpleasant feelings, the thoughts and bodily sensations they generate, we progress inch by inch on our journey with joy, hope and resilience.
In this decade we aim to remind ourselves and our fellow human beings to develop these affective intentions so clearly and purposefully that they overshadow any other intention or goal (especially materialistic ones) that we may have, and that all we do arise in the first place from and touch on our mindful being. It is in this manner that we will truly stay in control in moments of extensive change (when animal and plant species march, the climate becomes unpredictable, and water becomes either too scarce or too much) and overcome, and not fail in the face of challenges we will face.
“Human beings are remarkable resilient creatures. We are copers and problem solvers. We cope through sheer determination, through our creativity and imagination, through prayer and religious beliefs, through involvements and diversions that feed our need for purpose,meaning, joy, and belonging, and for stepping outside ourselves and caring for others. We cope and are buoyed up by our own tenacious love for life, and by receiving love, encouragement, and support from our family, our friends and our larger community”. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
**When we think (now in January 2020) of our immediate future in the light of the destruction wrought by Australian fires, the uncertainty of climate change and the inability of world leaders to grapple with this, it helps to think in terms of a decade.
It also helps to assign a definitive commitment, vision and strategy of Hope and Resilience to this decade.
Then we feel more comfortable exploring the journey to 2029 and the outer-reaches and far corners of the decade.
Hope and resilience will bring us there.
Take up this guiding light, take our hands, and walk with us all the way to December 2029 and beyond.
Dirk Joubert (040835720) & Mariki Smith (0832884393)
The Free State Institute of Mindfulness team.