If you think “I just can’t be mindful” – this article is for you.
Ok, so you’re not a meditation person, and can’t think of anything worse than a mindfulness exercise requiring you to sit still while focusing on your “feelings”. Seems stupid to try to have some kind of big experience when there’s so much going on and besides, it’s just boring. And all this talk about “accepting the moment”. Hey, things are bad in the world and my rent doesn’t get paid by “accepting” that I owe it. Stuff has to get done! Change needs to happen.
At the same time, there’s a lot of talk about mindfulness, blah blah blah and it would be good to be happier and enjoy life more. But it seems like everything you’ve tried just doesn’t work or isn’t “for you”. And you don’t want to ditch the moral outrage you have about the injustices in the world in order to find peace. What good is peace if you just bury your head in the sand?
I get it. I really do.
The good news is you can have your outrage and mindfulness too. You can be involved in the world and be happier, more peaceful but still move strongly as a force for justice where you want to. But how? How can you reconcile what seems like the call to sit in silence and “surrender to what is” with the need to take action, and tend to our messy lives?
There are some folks for whom the standard mindful exercises for mindfulness do not work. You can’t just tell someone to “be mindful.” When you start to focus on your experience, you feel the pain. You feel uncomfortable. You can’t stop thinking “what’s the point? Is that it? Was that mindfulness? What’s the big deal?”
If you resonate with that, this article is you.
First things first – nothing’s wrong with you and I’m not going to paint you as “wrong” or “less than” or disadvantaged. You are who you are and your experience is your experience. So let’s start there.
Here’s the good news – you’re mindful enough to know that you struggle with the traditional methods. And that is no trivial matter.
Since standard mindfulness exercises involving breathing, meditations, etc. are not working for you, I have some suggestions that may.
Let’s look at the basic principles of the traditional techniques and see if we can refactor this into something useful for you.
First thing first – you have to want something better than your current moment to moment experience. If you are involved or interested in mindfulness at all, then I assume there is a reason for that. GET REALLY CLEAR about this – you want something different — something better – and keep that intention in mind.
This next part is very important. Think about times things that happen in your life pretty regularly that “light you up”. I mean you just break into a broad smile or have a heartfelt moment without trying. Perhaps it’s music. Maybe you love the night sky. A child’s face. A flower. A dog. A relative. A lover. Food. Whatever it is, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that for a moment, you go “WOW” and are feeling something kinda nice.
Here’s the trick – the moment you notice this is shaping – HIT PAUSE. The second you notice it happening, choose to LINGER for a few seconds. Do this on purpose. It only takes a few seconds and no one will notice that silly grin (and if they do, so be it). Whatever good thing you’re experiencing, just hang out with that for a few extra moments. Don’t struggle to make it any bigger (or smaller) than it is. It may deepen all by itself. Let it.
Notice. Pause. Breath. Relax. Take it in. Feel it. Move on.
This is the very essence of a powerful practice. It works for a lot of reasons and is especially good for people who have trouble doing traditional meditations or mindfulness work.
First, these moments bring more goodness into your day. Let’s say that you decide to do this and you notice good things a couple of times a day and just hang there. Yeah! The next day you notice a few more. In a week, you are noticing many more good things in your day, and you are hanging out with the goodness longer. This can have a dramatic effect on the quality of your moment to moment experience, which is after all, what having a better life is all about, right? If it’s not about having more, better moments – then what is it?
Second, you train your brain to seek and embrace lusciousness. The world is full of incredible opportunities to experience beauty, awe, grace, love, tenderness, justice, all kinds of things that can bring a smile to anyone that notices. You have to NOTICE though. It’s hard to be entranced by something as simple as the way tree branches sway, the grace of a bird, the purity of a baby’s face, how adorable that dog is when you’re thinking about your taxes. There’s a time for taxes and there’s time for life. Our thoughts have a way of taking us away from our experience so seek and embrace the simple things around us every day, all day.
Third, this is transferable. The goodness you bring into yourself will improve your mood, elevate your awareness, and increase your capacity to be in touch with beauty. That will impact everything you do and everyone you meet. You may not turn into a beacon of light, but you will certainly improve your immediate conditions and as a result, the condition of those around you. Yes, there is still crappy stuff in the world, but there is also beauty. So while you’re out there fixing stuff, you can enjoy life more.
Finally, this is a hardcore, bonafide mindfulness, and spiritual practice. Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn (who I recommend), is paying attention, on purpose, non-judgmentally, and in the present moment. This meets all of those criteria.
So there you have. A really easy, fun, free, way to change your world through a mindfulness practice that does not involve breathing, sitting down, or feeling your body. Do it! It works.