This is a guest post from a fellow colleague Jolene Feeney, a fellow therapist who runs Mindful Wellness Counseling in Vancouver, WA. To learn more about Mindful Wellness Counseling, you can check them out here.
I had this blog title suggested to me and I am merely writing it because it is actually pretty comical. There are several things about this title that run absolutely opposite to what mindfulness is about. The first item being: the concept of “doing.” Mindfulness practices are focused on learning how to be instead of do.
How to be a Human Being not Human Doing
We are incredibly good at doing. We’re constantly doing! Have you ever stopped trying to do? How did it feel?
If you were like me, not doing felt like torture; like I was failing, being unproductive, being lazy, etc. The concept of being is the idea of being present in the moment, and not trying to achieve anything in particular. For example, in formal Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training people are asked what their goals are for attending the training. As people describe the numerous reasons for attending the facilitator goes on to share that this is an expectation and often times out expectations can limit our experiences and even lead to disappointment.
Have you ever tried to meditate before and felt like your brain seemed to get louder, instead of quieter?
You think to yourself: “I tried meditation, it didn’t work.” “I’m not good at it.” This is where most people stop. There was an expectation that if you sit, close your eyes and try to be mindful that it would just happen. I think we can agree that it sounds ridiculous, but I encounter this all the time.
There have been other times when expectations have gotten in the way of me experiencing something fully.
For example, I have been caught up in expectations of myself when it comes to golf. I have been golfing for most of my life, but it has not been a consistent type of playing. I get out a handful of times a year.However, each time I go out I expect to play great. When I do, I beat myself up, and then my golf game no longer becomes fun.
I find I do best when I can let go of expectations of myself and try to be present; feeling the movements of my arms, wrists, hips, and legs as I complete my swing. Allowing myself to be present and just be allows me to let go of the pressure to do or perform to a certain level.
Time to stop being so Judgmental
The second item that strikes me as contradictory to mindfulness is the concept of the “right way.” Of course, there are less effective ways to be mindful, however, the concept of right and wrong has more to do with judgments. Being non-judgmental is one of the core elements of being a mindful person, however, it can be one of the most challenging elements.
We are conditioned by society and by evolution to be judgmental.
Society has created a judgmental norm by creating unrealistic ideas of who people should and should not be (I could go on and on about this, but I won’t). Through evolution, we have had to refine our judgments. At first, we were needing to judge for our safety; evaluating what is safe or not safe to eat, or what to do when it is too hot or too cold. Using our evaluative mind allowed us to survive.
However, as time has gone by we have had to be less concerned about physical dangers but more concerned with psychological dangers.
When we are being judgmental we are not being present. We are in our heads and operating off of assumptions and thoughts that may be getting in the way of experiencing life in a new way. There are many times of big and small where this has shown up in my life. For example, I still have not seen the movie Avatar; I judged it to be over-hyped and something that I wouldn’t like so I haven’t seen it. I have also judged myself and others around me and it has probably gotten in the way of me making new connections.
The more appropriate question: How can I be more mindful?
Here are some simple steps you can do to challenge yourself as a way to start practicing a more mindful life:
- Track your judgments, big and small. Perhaps you were judging the color on the wall, perhaps you were judging how someone was dressed, or you judged yourself. Write it down. You’ll be surprised by the number of judgments we make on a daily basis.
- When you feel your mind wandering from the present moment (i.e. thinking of the past or future) gently bring yourself back to what is happening in the here and now. Ground yourself with paying attention to your 5 senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste.
- If you find yourself feeling upset about something, check in with this simple question: What was I expecting? This may reveal expectations that set us up to have painful experiences.
Do you want to know more about taking a more mindful approach to life? Contact Jolene at Mindful Wellness Counseling, today.