Accepting the experience, Pierre Gagnon

Pierre Gagnon, Mind Trainer at Thanyapura in Phuket, Thailand (https://www.thanyapura.com), teaches us that learning to sit with unpleasant sensations, thoughts and feelings is at the root mindfulness.

The concept of mindfulness can sometimes be perceived with some confusion.

Being mindful means being in the present moment and observing what’s happening in the present moment.

However we have a tendency to forget the most powerful element of mindfulness which is the capacity to observe the experience with no desire whatsoever to change it. This also includes not having the desire to avoid this experience or emotion in the future.

It is simply a capacity to observe and experience what is happening in the body as it is.

Wanting is very subtle. Sometimes we are convinced that we are observing the present moment and don’t realize that we would like the present moment to be different from what it is. When this happens we struggle with our emotions and when we struggle, we suffer mentally.

We could say that there is an unavoidable part of pain that comes with being alive. Whatever unpleasant thought that comes to us, can create unpleasant sensations in the body which are an unavoidable reaction to that unpleasant thought.

A great part of our problem is that we have unrealistic demand on our biology. We would like our body to be constantly in a pleasant state, and we would like the unpleasant states experienced in the body to go away immediately. This is a form of craving. Craving is a foolish and unrealistic desire, because it is almost a denial of the workings of our biology.

Whatever mental formation occurs in the brain will impact our body, and these effects will not always be pleasant. We have to accept that this is the way our body and brain work together. 

Something really powerful happens when we realize that we can totally be with an emotion without struggling. From my limited experience, this is true for every emotion. It happens to us regularly, we just don’t see because we’re not aware.

When we struggle with an emotional state, it’s because we’re fighting with it. I’m not saying that emotional states are comfortable. Far from it: being sad, angry, jealous or feeling rejected involves a great deal of physical discomfort.

Being capable of embracing this physical state without fighting it teaches us that we are good at experiencing discomfort, much better than we think we are.

What seems to be problematic for us is that we find discomfort unpleasant and we want it to stop and run away from it.

Therefore we fight with the physical experience that thoughts and emotions create. So we end up struggling and suffering instead of just being uncomfortable. We somehow have to make peace with our body and accept that it is not always a place of comfort.