What Mindfulness Is And What Mindfulness Is Not.

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It seems really simple at first.

We have thoughts about our purpose, the fear of meaninglessness, and being finite—the realization that nothing is permanent, including ourselves. We and the world that we live in are not permanent but ever-changing.

Many of us try and avoid the thoughts that we question. The thoughts that make us feel uncomfortable. We don’t want to think about our insecurities. Our fear of failure or rejection and abandonment. No one wants to remember their traumas – the anger, pain, despair, and turmoil that dwell in those dark places.

What Mindfulness Is Not

Mindfulness is not just deciding to be happy. It is not thinking anything but positive thoughts and repeating affirmations. Mindfulness is not about finding a relaxing state of mind that causes you to fall asleep.

It is not meditation where you have to sit with your legs crossed and are focused on your breathing to the exclusion of everything else.

It is not a way to manage emotions; most likely, you may experience discomfort more than comfort. You may experience more unpleasant thoughts than pleasant. You may learn more unexpected and unsettling things about yourself than you knew before mindfulness.

Mindfulness is not daydreaming and playing out your favorite episode or character in a book.

Mindfulness is not about attaining a state of nirvana. It is not an escape but creates awareness around the issues that you need to attend to.

It is not the cure-all to your present struggles and the ‘technique’ that will unlock the secret to ‘magically’ make everything better. Problems that have developed over the weeks, months, and years cannot be fixed overnight. But mindfulness can definitely help.

Mindfulness and altered states of mind

It’s about developing awareness around what we reach for when we are desperate for relief. What we grasp for when seeking an altered state of mind. The quest for instant gratification and short-lived satisfaction. Altered states of mind can be achieved through numerous things. Through substances, by falling in love, daydreaming, binge-watching your favorite shows, to name a few.

An altered state of mind lets you break free from your current experience. For some folks, it may be the experience of being average, unexceptional, and unmemorable. But, on the other hand, it can be the vanilla feeling in a world of custom flavors.

Altered states of mind can become addictive. Breaking free from the discomfort and feeling something more pleasant. Unfortunately, we may continue to reinforce those patterns. Becoming more and more habituated to reaching for something to take the edge off. While becoming less and less able to sit with the discomfort, even the most fleeting sensations of unease begin to become unbearable.

Perhaps in your quest for certainty and predictability, you make the mistake of associating your discomfort or unease with needing an altered state of being. Perhaps this then becomes a pattern. Each time a slight niggling feeling of discomfort is felt, an altered state of mind is reached for.

Through mindfulness, you can learn why you continue to feel dissatisfied. Perhaps through mindfulness, you can become curious enough to want to discover your patterns.

Mindfulness and Labeling

Do you find security in defining yourself and giving yourself a label? For example, defining yourself as worthy or worthless? Capable or incapable? Deserving or undeserving? Successful or failure?

We become trapped in these identities and labels in how we see ourselves and how we believe the world sees us.

We carry these labels around and believe that they are true and who we are. But what if, through the use of mindfulness, you discover that it has perhaps been a lie? Perhaps this is another pattern worthy of your curiosity and can be discovered through mindfulness?

Mindfulness – A Transformative Process

Mindfulness can be a transformative experience when you discover how to validate yourself without moralizing, judging, and being punitive.

It is about being able to stay present and attentive to the moment. This is how you free yourself from the destructive patterns you have been engaging in. By becoming aware of the pattern that is happening and having the opportunity to take action. Not out of reaction and frustration but out of compassion and understanding that this is the pattern that needs to be changed.

You are not able to break a pattern that you do not understand. And you cannot truly understand your pattern without compassion for yourself. Without compassion for yourself, you will continue to view your patterns through judgment. By judging or condemning, you will miss why it is you do what you do.

Mindfulness is dropping the narrative that you have been telling yourself. It is about sitting with the emotion without telling yourself a story about it. It’s about moving towards your emotional experience without condemning or justifying its existence.

Mindfulness – A How To Practice

Mindfulness helps by putting some distance between ourselves and how we react when things occur.

Here is a guide on how to practice mindfulness:

Set aside some time

You don’t need anything fancy or even a big pillow to sit on or a dedicated space. You don’t even need a whole lot of time. Mindfulness can be done throughout the day for short periods of time. When folks are new to mindfulness, it can be best to practice it for 1-2 minutes throughout the day.

Sometimes when we start something new, we think we need to schedule out blocks of time to benefit. However, with mindfulness, this is not necessary. Large blocks of time can potentially cause unnecessary frustration with those that are new or old mindfulness.

Observe the moment

The intention behind mindfulness is to observe the moment. It is not to achieve a state of calmness or nirvana. But quite simply to be present and observe the moment without feeding into the narrative or story. Or pushing away from it.

Noticing thoughts

When you notice that you are judging a thought or creating a narrative or story to justify it, make a mental note of it and let it pass by.

So often, folks get frustrated with mindfulness because they find themselves entertaining thoughts. This is a very normal experience of mindfulness. We become enthralled with our thoughts and internal movies that we cannot but become distracted by them. And that is okay.

Just make a mental note of the distraction and without judgment or justification, tune yourself back into mindfulness.

Dropping your narrative and returning to the present moment

I mention this twice in two different ways because it is important. First, when you notice yourself creating a narrative or story around your emotions, make a note of it and let it go. Mindfulness is about sitting with the energy of emotion and just noticing thoughts. To sit with it, stay with it, experience it, and leave it as it is – unaltered.

Compassionate curiosity

When you can sit with the energy of emotion without trying to alter it – you may become curious about it. It is this curiosity that helps make leaning into an emotion possible. We spend so much of our lives running or trying to suppress or justify an uncomfortable emotion that we forget how to experience it. We can learn what an emotion feels like without all of the wrappings that we have trained ourselves are ‘needed’ to feel with compassion and curiosity.

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