I have yet to meet someone who finds mindfulness and meditation an easy practice, particularly in the early days. I know for me, the phenomenal discomfort and frustration that arose in my initial attempts were extremely off-putting and resulted in very sporadic practices. Where was the serenity and clarity I sought? How could this possibly be beneficial? And I’m not alone. The commonest responses I get from clients attempting a mindful meditation is the ‘it’s difficult and I don’t like it.’ Which is great, as it means they’re doing it right.
Somewhere along the line with all figurines of zen monks and laughing buddhas, we formed the impression (well at least I did), that mindfulness and meditation are pleasant experiences. Now they may well be at times however we forget the core purpose of meditation is to bring an awareness to the present moment, no matter what the moment may be. Oftentimes, we struggle with mindfulness as we have spent our entirety evading difficult emotions and thoughts. When we persuade ourselves to sit still and be present, it may be the first time we have experienced what we have spent a lifetime avoiding and it can feel like absolute mayhem. The practice is designed to bring our attention to our reality and reality isn’t always particularly pleasant.
Now this may sound like an undesirable prospect. However, when we can slow things down and create a space between the stimulus (whatever that may be) and our response, we can slow down our reactions and make wiser decisions or change tactic or simply accept things with a little less resistance. Difficulties become easier to handle; they don’t have as much of an impact on us. The result is often subtle but builds with consistent practice. And speaking of practice, another misconception is the duration required to reap the benefits. A mindfulness practice is developed in increments, not leaps and bounds. Mindfulness is a concept that we continuously return to, not one that we can maintain. Yet, we are under the impression that a consistently successful and long practice is necessary. And that’s just not how it works. Our minds are always going to wander; the practice lies in continually bringing it back, over and over. Implementing it throughout your day makes it a sustainable way of being that eventually integrates into a habitual routine; snippets of awareness becomes moments which eventually become minutes.
So if you’ve tried mindful meditation and felt you failed, know this. It’s not supposed to be always easy or pleasant, nor is it about the duration. Start as small as you can muster but stay consistent and see the difference in the way you perceive the world.
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