I have been doing mindfulness now, on an off, for approximately four years and I have to be honest with you (sorry to shatter your illusions) but it doesn’t get any easier. In fact, mindfulness becomes more challenging with every sitting.
Mindfulness is often misunderstood to be simply the practice of sitting still and thinking, however, that is a miscalculation of what mindfulness really is and what it takes to practice it. I suppose the key to what mindfulness really is, is in the descriptor that defines what you do; ‘Practice’. That word alone defines what you do when you put mindfulness into action and it is what you need to do to make it work.
Let’s make it very clear from the start that the phrase “practice makes perfect “, does not apply in this instance. When we use the word practice we are referring to the process of repeatedly putting in place a methodology that we call mindfulness. Like any practice, it takes effort to undertake it and it takes dedication and commitment to continue with it. However, the purpose of mindfulness is not to achieve an outcome e.g. a body that is sculpted or a dance move that is fluid. No, mindfulness meditation practice is a process of sitting with what comes up (bodily and emotionally), and is a technique whose outcome is not known, nor predictable or expected. Mindfulness, is truly a practice with no goal of attaining [A, B or C] and would appear on the surface to be very simple. However, this is where the real ‘kicker’ is.
Mindfulness can be seen as all of the above, however, it is also none of it if you really immerse yourself in it. It can take immense effort to sit and be still while you’re practising mindfulness. It takes considerable concentration to stay focussed on the anchor of your particular mindfulness practice. It takes dedication and resilience to sit down every day when boredom and dissolution sets in. It takes courage to stay seated especially when your body hurts or your mind secretes thoughts of fear and doubt. As has been quoted in the past; “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” [Frederick Douglass – American Social Reformer]”.
Mindfulness is not for the faint hearted, nor is it something that should be undertaken lightly. Mindfulness is a practice that requires dedication, focus and a deep intent.
Personal stuff: in the years that I’ve been doing mindfulness, I have found many aspects of it challenging. Amongst the challenges have been:
- Struggles with posture. That is finding a comfortable position to resting.
- I have found that making time has been tough. Setting time aside for a structured and formal routine has been difficult.
- Forgetting to place the focus of attention on an object e.g. the breath and seeing it as an investigation practice rather than a focusing one. By that I mean that mindfulness practices can drift into investigation sessions rather than ones that are trying to hone my focus. Mindfulness is very much a technique used in meditation but one of its main goals is to hone the technique of one pointlessness and any ‘analysis’ is not mindfulness.
- “I am bored “. Mindfulness as we have said is the art of doing nothing and in doing so you may actually receive everything you need. However, as a human, living in a modern and stimulus filled world, doing nothing is real chore. Boredom can become a real focus of your mindfulness practice and give you something to investigate, which really isn’t what you want to do. Boredom, when you experience it, can make ‘sitting’ incredibly difficult.
- Your mind starts to take over and you can get drawn away from the anchor. As we have stated many times before the mind is a powerful and helpful servant however it is a lousy master. It has a tendency to get in the way of activities are using subtle phrases that distract you from the purpose of your sitting. In other words when sat in meditation and particularly the mindfulness practice the mind secretes thoughts randomly e.g. “this isn’t going very well“ or “I’m useless at everything.“ These themselves control you and take you away from the purpose of your sitting, and can take you further away from achieving one pointed concentration.
- Finally, doubts of worth around the practice have really popped up from time to time. I have found Mindfulness is indeed a challenge in that it is incredibly subtle. However, through perseverance, faith, and a commitment to try any positive and worthwhile self-development tool, I have found it to be the most effective and life changing practice so far.
Mindfulness has now become a part of my everyday life. It is no longer a remedial exercise, in that it is not only there for when crisis occurs. No, it has become an investment in my long-term mental and physical wellbeing. A cost effective and incredibly powerful down payment toward the health of this entity we call “Jonathan” and one that I would recommend to everyone.