Whether you are new to practicing mindfulness or you have been practicing for a long time, it is helpful to remind ourselves of what mindfulness is not. Even seasoned practitioners can start to forget what mindfulness is about – a practice, that is never perfected. The whole point of mindfulness is not to achieve anything, but to simply be in the present moment and consciously observe both your internal and external experience. What makes it a practice are the sticky times when emotions are high, we’re triggered by something or someone, or when we simply have strayed off the path.
This week, watch out for natural tendencies to stray from your mindfulness practice by keeping in mind what mindfulness is not.
Mindfulness is not:
Relaxation: Yes, we often feel relaxed and rejuvenated from practicing mindfulness, but this is not always the case nor is it the goal. Don’t confuse relaxation with being present. Present isn’t always relaxing!
Easy: While we all have those glorious moments of ease when practicing mindfulness, most of the time it requires a bit of work and is not as easy as it is simple. In fact, if it feels easy for too long, you may want to check in with yourself.
A blank mind: Remember, there is no goal in mindfulness. We may have some seconds of a quiet mind, but more often we have very busy minds. The practice of mindfulness is to notice this and bring the attention or focus back to the one thing – the breath, your conversation, walking, whatever you are doing at that moment.
Avoiding pain: In his book Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters, Robert Augusts Masters explains that the use of spiritual practices to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs” is called spiritual bypassing. He goes on to say, “if a meditative technique is primarily used to avoid pain, spiritual bypassing is occurring.” Mindfulness is not about avoidance or rising above anything. Mindfulness is getting real with the present moment.
Mindful moments are short practices to be used throughout your week to relax, integrate and center yourself. Inspired by the wisdom traditions and science, mindful moments are meant to be accessible and simple enough for anyone to practice. Many teachers and leaders in integrative medicine have influenced our approach to mindful moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Pema Chodron would say it is “practicing in the gaps.” Look for the weekly mindful moment every Monday. May it support you in finding your center to live life to the fullest.
Join us for Sitting Meditation on Tuesdays at 5:15 PM or at OIC Main.