The idea of trust in the attitudes of mindfulness is focused on the trust of self. How many of us have lost touch with our instincts, or distrust them? The attitude of trust is about having the courage to cultivate and develop trust in yourself.
It may seem illogical in this technological and digital age of fact and evidence to speak of instincts, but when it comes to understanding ourselves and our well-being, listening to your inner self is a critical skill.
Think about the myriad of actions that our brains are controlling which happen as a result of unconscious processing. The unconscious is a process that happens automatically and is not available for introspection. The subconscious, by contrast, is part of our consciousness process that is not actively in focal awareness. Your nervous system, all five senses and the data they input to our brains, the processing of that data, all unconscious activities without which we would not survive. The physical processes taking place throughout our bodies, breathing, digestion, hormonal secretions, heart pumping, arteries and veins contracting, electrical signals jumping over synapses, all vital and life sustaining functions, and all unconsciously carried out. We do not have to think about putting one foot in front of the other when we walk, or any movement we make. We are aware that brain injury (such as a stroke) may cause us to have to re-learn these unconscious skills, so we know our brains are responsible for processing our unconscious activities.
Now consider those times when you consciously will yourself to do something, perhaps its sticking to a new year resolution, but how your unconscious self will overcome that willpower. You reach for the sugar because you are behaving in an automatic way. We know that one of the hardest things to break, once you have managed to shake an addiction, is the habitual behaviour that accompanies the addiction. The cigarette after dinner, the drink after work, not necessary actions but habitual behaviour that can be as hard to shake as the addiction itself. Change needs to happen at the unconscious level and that takes practice. Recently, someone said to me “practice makes permanent”. Instead of striving for unattainable perfection, we should be trying to embed our change at the deepest level to make them part of us.
Developing a trust in yourself and your feelings is an integral part of meditation training. For many people, it is a leap of faith to start meditation and I fully acknowledge that. This attitude of trusting yourself and your own basic wisdom and goodness is very important in all aspects of the meditation practice. It is far better to trust in your intuition and your own authority, even if you make some “mistakes” along the way, than always to look outside of yourself for guidance. If at any time something doesn’t feel right to you, why not honour your feelings? Why should you discount them or write them off as invalid because some authority or some group of people think or say differently?
If you think about it, there are so many things in life (both simple and complex) that are beyond our control yet we put our trust in them with barely any thought or awareness of that trust, so why can we not do the same with ourselves – our minds and hearts?
In cultivating the attitude of trust, what we are aiming to do is become more fully ourselves. It’s important therefore to not get caught up with the reputation and authority of your teachers (or peers). If you feel that any guidance given to you takes you away from who you are, trust yourself and take another path that feels right for you. It is impossible to become like someone else. The best you can hope for is to become more fully yourself, so don’t compare and aspire to become like someone that you admire.
The attitude of trust is about tuning in to your deeper self. It is listening to yourself at a far deeper level than what you are thinking. It’s about getting beyond the mind, right down to intuition and what you are feeling, then trusting those intuitions and feelings and letting then guide you to become more fully yourself. It is not an attitude of ignoring common sense, trust is not blind or unintelligent, but it is allowing your inner voice to be heard and given consideration in your decision making. It is at this deeper level that we make change happen, by releasing the inner clarity we all have. We are naturally resilient, but as we mature and are moulded by our circumstances and experiences, we may lose touch with the innate strength that exists within us. Practicing awareness can put us back in touch with that capability, and we can then choose to employ it to bounce back from life’s challenges.