Mindfulness. For the past few years everyone’s been tossing this buzz-word around, lauding it as an incredible cure-all for stress and busyness, ill health and procrastination.
We have apps and conferences, special colouring books, retreats and constant reminders popping up on social media of just how mindfully others are living. (Which begs the question: If a woman meditated on a beach but didn’t take a selfie, did it really happen?)
And if you’re anything like me, you probably understand that, sure, there is definitely good reason to live more mindfully – to start meditating or carve out ten minutes every morning to journal, to breathe deeply and intentionally or start savouring the small moments in our day-to-day.
But if you’re even more like me, you’re probably also really adept at giving reasons why we can’t or don’t do any of those things.
Here’s some of the most common roadblocks I’ve thrown in my own way over the past six years of learning to live mindfully. (Maybe you’ll recognise some of them?)
I have no time
The good news is you don’t really need to give mindfulness any extra time. There are so many ways to adopt mindfulness in your current day that the argument of not enough time is completely moot. Choose one task you already do, and turn it in to a mindfulness moment:
- hanging the laundry
- making a cup of tea
- driving to soccer practice
- warming your lunch in the office microwave
Simply pay attention to what you’re doing in that moment – the sensations, actions, smells and tastes. That’s mindfulness.
I’m not good at it
Great! No-one is “good” at mindfulness. In fact, sometimes practicing mindfulness brings about more awareness, which can feel really uncomfortable. It can bring you back to consciousness, which often means seeing truths we’re not always happy to see.
Don’t let that stop you, because only from awareness can we learn how to change and adapt.
If we remove the idea of good or bad from mindfulness (or meditation, or most things, really) and simply view it as a part of our efforts to create a slower, simpler life, we can also remove the stigma of not getting it right.
View it as an experiment instead. Don’t attach any particular outcomes to the practices of mindfulness; simply wait and see how you feel.
I’m not that kind of person
I used to think the same thing about certain types of meditation, but what I was really saying is that I was afraid of it. I didn’t know anything about it and it scared me.
If you really don’t want to meditate, then don’t.
Instead of diving straight in to thirty-minute meditations or yoga classes, try adding a touch of mindfulness to things you already enjoy doing.
Love gardening? Use that as a practice. Love guitar? Make that your time of mindfulness. Or simply start noticing more.
I’m skeptical of its usefulness
It’s easy to be skeptical of a slow fix when we’re constantly bombarded with instant gratification, seven-day miracle cures and easy solutions to help you lose thirty pounds in thirty-two seconds.
There is no miracle cure.
And while there are many studies showing the positive effects of mindfulness and meditation on our brains and our well-being, you’re probably not going to believe it until you experience it yourself anyway.
Be playful and curious, and instead of attaching a predetermined result to it, simply experiment. Try some of these suggestions for a week at a time and see how you feel.
I get bored
We’re so used to constant stimulus that the absence of it immediately triggers boredom, or fear or anxiety.
Instead of giving in to that boredom, see it for what it is – your brain lashing out, looking for a fix. You don’t need to sit there peacefully feeling bored, but you can sit there and acknowledge how you feel.
Stick that boredom in the corner and continue to sit, continue to notice, continue to be.
I can’t sit still
Then don’t. Go for a walking meditation. Use your gym workout as a mindfulness practice. Garden or paint or write or sew in mindfulness.
I can’t stop my thoughts
You don’t need to. Thinking is what our brains do, so rather than trying to stop our thoughts from zooming around, simply accept that they are doing what thoughts do.
You can acknowledge their presence (give ‘em a little wave if you want to) and continue your mindfulness practice, knowing that if they’re important, these thoughts won’t go far. Hint: often they’re not important.
I feel too many feelings
We do a lot to avoid feelings like anxiety, sadness or anger.
We stay busy, we self-medicate, we say yes, we say no – all so as not to experience the “bad” feelings life has for us. But these feelings are important, because in order to feel the highs of joy and happiness, we also need to understand the lows of grief, envy or disappointment.
Mindfulness allows us to acknowledge and accept such feelings, feel them in all their depth, and understand that they are valid and important. It also helps us to understand that they are not everything – even on days that feel like sadness has swallowed the world.
It doesn’t make a difference
Some days, maybe it doesn’t.
But just like you can’t judge the usefulness of a French lessons by your fluency after day one, you can’t judge the effectiveness of mindfulness practice after staring at a flower for two minutes.
Focus on the moment it is impacting, and understand that you’re giving yourself the gift of time, buffer and space, regardless of how blissed out you do (or don’t) feel.
This is an excerpt from SLOW, Brooke’s second book. It’s out now in all good bookstores, and to celebrate Brooke is touring the US and speaking at libraries and bookstores all throughout the summer – INCLUDING an Austin event with Tsh at BookPeople on Tuesday, August 7th at 7pm. For all other event dates, head over to Brooke’s website.