Mindfulness Works But You Have To Commit To The Practice
While the proliferation of mindfulness into the mainstream is desirable the downside is that many ordinary people without real knowledge of the practice are compelled to view the whole thing as nothing more than a buzzword, as hollow and ineffective. This attitude is only strengthened by the fact that whenever anything becomes popular charlatans come out of the woodworks to take advantage of the situation in order to try to make a quick buck.
We have heard a lot of people say something along the lines of ‘I find mindfulness to be a sham’, to which the best response is ‘That’s because you haven’t found it yet’. Mindfulness works but you have to commit to the practice. And while coming to the here and now through your breathing in order to be fully involved in whatever your object of interest is sounds like the simplest thing in the world, in our modern times it’s quite challenging, it takes time and effort to inhabit that meditative state often.
The people who don’t get results right away are correct when they claim mindfulness didn’t work for them, but it’s not because there’s anything wrong with the discipline itself but because they didn’t persevere with the discipline. Many people have an inaccurate idea that meditation is something you do at set times, that in order to cultivate mindfulness you’ve just got set aside five minutes or so once a day or once a week to focus on breathing. Is there any worthwhile endeavor you can think of where you’ll achieve a successful outcome by devoting fire or ten minutes a day or five or ten minutes a week?
The ideal is that we infuse mindfulness into the fabric of our lives so that we inhabit that mindful state all the time, whether we’re hanging out with friends, working, doing errands, walking, doing the dishes, or anything else. None of us can live up to that ideal but we can approximate it, and that’s the main point to grasp. Mindfulness is not supposed to be cultivated through infrequent meditation sessions but is a state to be inhabited all the time. We can think of sit down meditation sessions as intense exercises to strengthen mindfulness muscles but these sessions are not enough on their own. Mindfulness is meant to be a way of life, not isolated instances scattered throughout the week to help with life.
Like we said, in our experience the opinion that mindfulness just doesn’t work is almost always in realty a rationalization meant to minimize feelings of anxiety and frustration that all novice practitioners experience when they’re starting out. Quitting is the easiest way to eliminate those unwanted feelings Sticking with the practice means constantly failing at something that on the surface seems ridiculously easy. But if it were so easy then why can’t most people go even ten seconds without intrusive thoughts and feelings barging into conscious awareness to throw them out of their practice?
The key as a novice practitioner is to cultivate radical acceptance and non-judgment, to expect lots of setbacks but be determined to keep at it and, when suddenly aware of having been taken once again from the immediacy of the moment to gently refocus on in-breaths and out-breaths in order to come back to the here and now and give full attention to whatever the object of mediation is.