Healing Oneself through the Practice of Mindfulness

Healing Oneself through the Practice of Mindfulness

Apr 02, 2020

Incarnating on Earth, living in this planet at any time we may have chosen is nothing short of heroic. We take on physical and karmic bodies with templates replete with pain and wounds reinforced through many lifetimes, though most remain unconscious. As we leave the safety of our mother’s womb, we begin the steep uphill and spiral journey to awareness, healing and wisdom. Each moment that we encounter our darkness provides us the opportunity for transformation. Confronting our deepest pains and peeling layer after layer to reveal all our wounds move us closer to healing, to our light, and ultimately to wholeness. Thus, I salute every human being who choose to be born, whatever your purpose may be in this life. 

It took me 31 years to come face to face with my own darkness. In 2010, I had a ‘dark night of soul’ experience[1]. It is one thing to read about this phenomenon and quite a shock to go through it, and yes, this is not for the faint of heart. What I perceived as my life and the image of who I was came crashing down, hard. I had glimpses of my darkness but never got to face it fully. I still recall that moment when I felt like a balloon – with my over-inflated ego – that suddenly popped, only to realize I had nothing within, no core, and just the flimsy image of myself keeping me together. I can understand how one would feel despondent, disempowered and alone that they would rather choose to end their lives. I was there, it was a choice I too had. Deep diving into my darkness brought immense pain and hopelessness but eventually changed the trajectory of my life, for the better. 

This dark night of soul experience can be seen in medical terms as a major depressive episode. It can also manifest as a nervous breakdown, a mental or even a physical illness, a destructive behavior or a total breakdown of one’s life brought about by disaster or tragedy. As with any heroic journey, the beauty of this experience unfolds over time, when one overcomes the challenges. It will be different for everyone, and sadly, others give up all too quickly or cannot see beyond the physical situation or the biological condition. 

After 9 years, looking back, this experience brought numerous gifts: finding my purpose, renewing my spirit, accepting what is, letting the false fall away to emerge the new, allowing me to live with courage and trust, and feeling utterly grateful for all that I have learned and continue to learn in this life. All this, I would not have fully understood had it not been for the practice of mindfulness. Interestingly, during the Emerge International Youth Conference I co-organized before my dark night of soul experience, I had a burning question: “what is my practice?” Obviously, my question was answered in a big way, but I had to dig deep to find what I was looking for. 

I chanced upon mindfulness in 2016, through a friend and colleague who I have journeyed with in Waldorf Education and has over the years stoked my passion for spiritual science through Rudolf Steiner’s work. I would receive books from her at exactly the right time, with inspiring messages that I needed to hear. 

Prior to mindfulness, I went full on to heal myself. Mental illness was frowned upon and misunderstood in Philippine society at that time, with all the stigma and discrimination that go with it. Thus, I had to confront depression the only way I know how: research, educating myself by reading books to help me understand my experiences, and seeking support through creative and spiritual means. These included self-help books, art and music therapy, as well as new age, indigenous spirituality and Buddhist practices.

Research made me realize that my depression and negative core beliefs could be attributed to: (1) my upbringing and experience of verbal, emotional and physical abuse in early childhood, (2) societal and environmental factors (including intergenerational trauma), (3) birth psychology (the experience inside the womb, with the immediate environment having an impact), and (4) traumas in childhood and youth (i.e. bullying). Self-help books gave me new perspectives with activities that I could do on my own. Support through creative modalities opened doors into my emotions and sub-conscious, acquiring capacities to work with whatever I uncover. Spiritual science, new age and indigenous spirituality helped me to look beyond this life to past lives, karma and working with energies. Buddhism brought a new perspective into suffering and introduced me to the power of meditation and compassion. I will always be grateful for all that I have gained from these approaches, they helped me along the path towards healing. However, I have always felt something was missing. 

When I began practicing mindfulness – the protocol derived from the synthesis of Eastern and Western wisdom and practice – I finally found tools that were very accessible, that needed no special equipment, that I could return to repeatedly. Mindfulness gave me a sense of agency and gave me the power to heal myself and accept myself just as I am through awareness, intention and attention.  At the same time, this awareness that I have started to cultivate continues to grow, take root and expand. The practices anchor me to be present in this life, to be in my body and in my relationships (which remains to be quite challenging), while allowing me to confront my darkness whenever it shows up, guiding me to new lessons that I have yet to discover. Slowly, I am learning to embrace life mindfully, gratefully, one moment and one breath at a time.

[1] This experience was somewhat documented through my blog: https://consciouspinay.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/in-and-out-of-depression/ Then, more publicly shared in 2017 through this article: https://news.abs-cbn.com/focus/10/24/17/climbing-out-of-the-deep-dark-hole-how-one-woman-found-purpose-in-battling-depression

This article appears in the third issue of Willow e-magazine. For a copy of the magazine, contact willapmaglalang@gmail.com.

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