Mindfulness is now known to be beneficial for mental health. Learning how to let yourself be, allowing thoughts and feelings to arise, be present, and dissipate on their own is a useful tool to support being present in the here and now, and giving perspective to the difficulties of the past and to anxieties about the future.
There are a few mis-understandings about mindfulness that I commonly hear that seem to get in the way with people giving it a go and developing a regular meditative practice. In this blog I wanted to address them.
Being mindful, and meditating, are NOT about clearing your mind. Anyone who has sincerely tried to clear their mind will be able to tell you it doesn't work. It's like the mind fights back and gets busier and noisier, because what you resist persists.
It's a mistake to think that the sense of peace that can result from mindful practice is an opposite to the normal functioning of the mind and of emotions. It is natural for thoughts and feelings to arise. Mindfulness is about changing your relationship with them, not about avoiding them, denying them, or pushing them away. Thought is not bad, it is just thought, no more, no less.
Mindfulness is about noticing, and yet not reacting. It's about allowing what you think and feel to be there, and still staying connected to your bigger self. The stillness is in the same space as the busy-ness, they are not apart or separate. How can you sit still and realise yourself even when there are lots of thoughts or strong feelings?
Secondly, mindfulness is not about doing things a particular way. It's not about sitting on a meditation mat, or about being slow. Living mindfully is about being curious and alive in the moment, fully aware and without judgement. It's about really noticing what is, and being within the natural flow of life, without adding to it or taking away from it.
Don't make mindfulness a task or a job. I like the description of it as 'beginners mind' - suggesting you do things as if you had never done them before. Bring your fascination and wonder to whatever it is you do and something shifts and opens up, life gets in.
The question that comes to mind when I think of mindfulness is this:
Are you living life or is life living you?
How can you enable both to be true simultaneously?