Why Should I Practice Mindfulness At All?
For better or for worse, the word “Mindfulness” has been linked directly to a spiritual way of living. I have noticed that for many of my friends who do not practice Mindfulness or other meditation forms, the word implies a state of being that is different from how they wish to live their lives. In my opinion, mindfulness has fallen victim to the realms of cult and religion.
In a recent post, I wrote in depth about my definition of mindfulness and gave a brief, simple way to practice it. In this post, I would like to answer the question that comes up often when I’m doing a training or leading a session and that is: “So why should I practice mindfulness at all?”
Mindfulness is not a race to enlightenment. It is not about changing one’s life habits. And, it is definitely not a technique to practice when looking to avoid feeling sad, anxious, or any other feelings and emotions. It is about training our mental muscles to pause and observe.
Human interactions in life are often driven by our automatic pilot. Our habits, steered by old and mostly obsolete beliefs about life, overpower our ability to assess each moment and event for what they are, and act with clarity based on the present need. In order to have a choice in how we meet life’s moments - from the most challenging ones to the upmost joyous ones - we must practice our innate ability to notice what is happening with our own operating system.
When we take a pause, we open the possibility for something new to arise. Imagine that you are an actor in a play that is having its 100th run, and tonight, just after the 3rd act begins, you decide to stop, go offstage, pick a new outfit and come back on stage with a brand-new set of lines. Isn’t that going to change how the story ends? Pausing is taking a break from being the well-rehearsed actor and taking a seat at the balcony to look at how the play unfolds.
When we observe, we draw in our minds a greater picture, complete with details. It is like being in the passenger seat and staring at the driver. Looking inwards allows us to see that behind the anger, we are protecting something important. Or, that behind the sadness - there is a young wish that was never granted. Or, behind our sarcasm and prickliness - there is a self that just wants to connect. The possibilities are abundant and what we find is unique to each and every one of us.
In my personal opinion, I believe that we practice mindfulness so that the next time we fuel an argument to an endless cycle of who is right or before turning down an opportunity or when about to take the next bite from a bland chocolate-chip cookie - we pause, observe, and act from a place that is true to our needs in that moment in time.