Does Mindfulness really have to be such hard work?

 

No, it’s doesn’t! Practising mindfulness or any meditation come to that, can be challenging enough without striving for perfection or bludgeoning ourselves into enlightenment before breakfast. We are trying to ease our suffering, not add to it.

Mindfulness is essentially observing what is happening inside (and really, who wants to go in there!?) and holding our experience with so much love, kindness and compassion, it transforms our relationship to what is happening. It’s that powerful. It is about focusing on the present moment and acknowledging and accepting the thoughts, feelings and sensations you are experiencing.

This is why it’s so worth persevering. Eventually we get to be not so bothered by the internal bedlam that is our collective human experience. What a freedom!

We can take it easy and with skilful, rather than ‘perfect’ practise, we realise that good enough is actually …… well, good enough. We notice that something is happening. We get more okay in our own skin and most importantly, we get okay when we are not okay.

Nope, mindfulness is not easy, especially when we are stressed, depressed, anxious or in physical and emotional pain. So why not be radically kind and cut ourselves some slack? There is no need for perfection and actually, it’s okay to do it, just a little bit badly!

I’d really love to tell you that some structure and routine doesn’t matter, but this is not my experience. We human beings, especially when we are in a state of distress, benefit from some containment, and through a little bit of discipline comes great freedom. However, there’s a difference between a routine that feels like a punishment and some healthy habits that provide a gentle framework for the day.

It’s very difficult for the majority of us to be still and do nothing without squirming. But the good news is a sitting meditation is just one aspect of mindfulness. We can start being mindful throughout the day – no ‘doing’ involved. We slow down, coming out of our heads (the thinking mind) and into the body. We focus on a body part of our choosing (the feet, for example) – as this is our portal to the present moment. It’s where the body lives.

I would go as far as to say this is the most consistently effective aspect to this practice. There is little benefit in sitting diligently for a formal meditation and then dashing around all day like a headless chicken.

Now we are not feeling coerced into getting up at the crack of sparrows and sitting for an hour with a pole up our collective jacksies, we can just take a few non-guilty conscious breaths to begin the day, before you put on “this morning” or check the mobile. And, if you have the time or inclination, stay a bit longer; but be careful, you might find it’s ‘sort of quite nice’ and want to do more.

Oh, the deep joy of a lying down meditation. A bit of subversive supine mindfulness gives the body and mind a powerful message: it’s time to let go and undo. I include a minimum of 30 minutes every day around 1 or 2 pm. I started because I was very unwell for a number of years and barely had the strength to sit upright. I still practise this daily because it is a flamin’ delight, doesn’t feel like a job to do and I get an extra day’s worth of energy in one.

Written by Lyn O'Donnell - The Mindful Delinquent