Mindfulness has become the new buzzword. From doctors to mental health practitioners, from teachers to corporate workshops and from research papers to Instagram hashtags, mindfulness is being portrayed as an ultimate solution for all human stress. The misconception arises when the real deal is lost between promoting the results instead of the practice itself. We are so focused on the results that we fail to understand the process behind it.
In my many discussions of mindfulness, I have come to realize that the true concept of mindfulness is unclear. People often ask me, “How can you be mindful and fail? How can you get angry, if you truly practice mindfulness?” It’s as though, if you practice mindfulness, you are expected to be this calm, serene, perfect person and someone who only finds good things in their life.
To be present
Mindfulness is not about having a perfect moment. It is also not about never experiencing extreme emotions like anger or jealousy, and it is definitely not about never having a bad day.
If you are mindful, you will still have your ups and downs, you will still feel happy and be sad, you will still experience pain. In fact, the core aspect of mindfulness is experiencing and accepting everything as it is—the good, the bad and the ugly. You will still have days when you feel alone, you will have days when you get chewed out by your boss and you will definitely still have days when your kids are driving you nuts.
Mindfulness, in its essence, means to be present in each moment of your day, good or bad. In most of the moments of our lives, our minds are running wild in a thousand different directions, and our grip on the present moment is hanging by a thread. So, when we bump up against a difficult life situation or anything unusual, we completely lose our grip and we react instead of responding.
The difference is that we do not mindfully choose the best option for ourselves in that sort of situation. Instead, we react, based upon the direction our thoughts were running in. This means our life is completely at the mercy of our wild thoughts.
Being mindful is nothing but forgoing wild thoughts. It is about experiencing the moment and focusing on the best course of action in this very moment. If the best course of action is to be angry at your child in this moment, so he or she never repeats a bad behaviour, then so be it.
A conscious choice
Mindfulness is about consciously choosing an emotion because it is required in that moment, to deal with that situation, rather than letting the emotion choose you when it’s not required and destroying everything.
It is about taking control of your life, rather than letting your life be trampled on by the wild thoughts that give rise to wild emotions and create wild actions. It is about entering a way of life where we have the choice to make conscious choices. It is a lifestyle that goes completely against what has been programmed within us during our upbringing. It is a learning experience that teaches us that the only way to gain control over our lives is to let go of control.
The first thing we need to accept, when including mindfulness in our lives, is that it is definitely, surely and without a doubt going to be uncomfortable.
The first thing we need to accept, when including mindfulness in our lives, is that it is definitely, surely and without a doubt going to be uncomfortable. It is a practice that helps us take control of our lives and how we experience them, rather than letting our thoughts decide for us.
This will initially feel like trying to become sober after years and years of being a raging alcoholic. An average human has approximately 3,000 thoughts per hour—almost one per second. We have been programmed to constantly keep thinking about what has happened and what will happen.
Mindfulness focuses on experiences rather than thoughts. It is about reducing your thinking to an as-needed basis, which is completely against what we are used to.
Dedication and commitment are two things that will determine if we succeed in being mindful or stumble through the loop of excuse. These two things will only work if you really, really, really want to change your lifestyle.
Before undertaking the assignment of practicing mindfulness, sit with yourself and understand why you think mindfulness is important for you. Why do you need it? Are you suffering? Are you thinking too much? If practicing mindfulness is the way out of it, are you ready to let go of everything you believe in to achieve it? If you fail, will you get up and give it another try?
Only if you go in with 100 percent determination, will you truly remain dedicated and committed to it.
Enjoy the ride: 5 things to keep in mind
Mindfulness is transformative
Transformation means to become a completely new person. This can only happen if you have the courage to let go of everything you are now, of everything you hold onto and everything that has a hold on you. Be prepared to become a completely different person with a completely new perspective, and be ready to reach your full potential.
It’s a practice, not a pill
It is very important to understand that the result will not occur overnight, just like fruits do not grow overnight. That is how nature works and that is how nature will always work. You will have to go through a time of development and growth, but as long as you continue to practice, transformation will happen eventually.
Five minutes a day is really not enough
Drinking one glass of water and 10 cups of alcohol will not clean your liver. Similarly, practicing five minutes of mindfulness and 23 hours and 55 minutes of mental thought-processing will not clear the mind.
Do it for yourself
Do not do it for your children, your family, your friends or anyone but you. Do it so when you die, you will do so knowing that you experienced your life the way it came to you; that you responded (as opposed to reacting) to every curveball; that you had fun while playing the game.
Mindfulness is THE norm
It is our normal state of being. Our minds were designed to be under our control, just like we are supposed to be in control of our cars. As technology has improved, we’ve relied more on its capabilities, relinquishing control, and over time, we have forgotten how to read the control panel.
We crash and suffer each day, failing to remember there is a way out. All that is missing is our hands back on the steering wheel with the necessary skills that have the power to change our lives into a joyride.