When I think about how I should meditate, I get this image of myself in lotus position, content and at peace. Ohm. Its desirable, trendy and now it’s good for me so why not? And then I actually do it, and it’s not quite like one would imagine. It would make a great meme, a perfect Pinterest fail.
Unfortunately it is these very imaginings, these expectations that draw me to mindfulness that also make it feel hard. That’s the trouble with practicing an ancient tradition in modern society and expecting ancient wisdom and contentment to follow. The current draw to mindfulness (for me anyway) was the prospect of self-healing. But really it was the image -the new me; one that was transformed into a calm, cool, collected, happy, and fully present woman. After all, with the new hacks and articles, it’s easy, right? Instead, my initial difficulties with mindfulness practice became the source of more personal discontentment. I was not self-confident and I was certainly not cool (I’m still not). I wasn’t doing mindfulness right. It’s impossible to measure up to the mindful ideal, and in the theory of mindfulness, doing it for a particular outcome (happiness, peace) is an altogether fallacy.
The origins of mindfulness are more empowering than the current applications as a skill or route to happiness. Using it as a tool for healing can miss the point of actual meditative practice. Recent trends break mindfulness down into be non-judgmental and in the moment, but there’s more to that end. Yes, mindfulness can absolutely help people, and there are whole therapies (that I practice) based on this.
Mindful meditation decreases many thinking patterns associated with depression and anxiety. Depression stems from ruminative thinking that confirms self-defeating ideas from the past. Anxiety is living mentally in the future –planning, worrying about details that are usually out of one’s immediate control. However, making “getting better” the goal of using this practice is selling people short. There are so many mindful shortcuts, it is almost exclusively used to help people feel better.
The origins of mindfulness come from Buddhist practice that draws on ideas of spiritual connectivity, not individual contentment. One might argue that mindfulness meditation does not exist to make one feel better at all, but to help them not think about themselves quite so much. As a society, we live off of the belief that contentment and confidence are earned through other’s affirmations. And there’s truth to that, but in meditation, it is humility that breeds connection, not confidence. Being more in the moment allows us to see the people right in front of us and to connect honestly, authentically. It also allows us to take an external perspective and connect with our own core values.
But have you heard these meditations? I have, I’ve (attempted to) record my own. And each time I hear my voice, there’s a part of me that does not recognize that woman; that positive thinking, slow speaking, kind, reflective person. So is it right of me to hold myself to that standard? Self-improvement is always a good thing; but self-acceptance has to come first.
In true mindful based therapies, control is the problem especially controlling for unwanted emotions. Yet, I originally pursued mindfulness as a way to do that very thing. To expect the pendulum to swing from judgment to non-judgment, or negative to positive, was my ideal. It was not realistic. We use mindfulness to eliminate the parts of ourselves we don’t like; and minimize discomfort about things over which we don’t have control. We should first incorporate the parts we aspire and then see if there’s room for both. Instead of going from bitch to mindful; I have to first accept that I am a mindful bitch.