What’s come up related to your mindfulness practice that’s confusing or difficult? Let us know and we’ll briefly respond or give you a resource for more info. Ask us a question now.
I thought mindfulness was supposed to make me feel better. A lot of the time it doesn’t work. Maybe I’m just not a good meditator?
Many times mindfulness techniques are used as a means to disconnect or stop experiencing what we’re experiencing. That’s a natural misunderstanding, because we humans approach difficulty or challenges as a problem to be solved, whereas mindfulness is the opposite. The act of bringing our full attention to the actual experience helps us be more fully present and grounded. It’s a paradoxical response. It allows things to settle in their own time, not in our time.
When we allow things to be the way they are, it allows our attention to open rather than contract in resisting and fighting what is in the moment. When attention opens like that it allows us to see a bigger perspective in which we can see other possibilities that weren’t visible before when we were so caught up in resisting.
There are also times when the difficulty or discomfort we’re experiencing in the moment simply needs to be held with a quality of attention that’s tender, compassionate, and kind. Contrary to our habitual thinking it’s not an indication that we’ve failed somehow or this wouldn’t be happening. This compassion arises from the recognition that as humans we all experience suffering and we’re not alone in all of this.
What can you do when your mind won’t stop while meditating?
by Jane Mayers
The goal of meditation is not to stop our minds from thinking; although many people think that’s what is supposed to happen if we’re doing it ‘right’. The goal of mindfulness meditation is to be present with what is actually happening. The nature of our mind is to think, sometimes more so than other times. When we are meditating and our mind is very busy thinking, that can be unpleasant and often our instinct is to try to stop it or fix it, which usually makes it worse.
A different strategy is just to notice when there is a lot of thinking happening in the moment: what is the overall emotional tone, such as perhaps restlessness, unsettledness or agitation? A next step is to notice how those sensations are expressing in the body as physical sensation, e.g. bracing or tensing in the shoulders or neck. Once we have identified the exact physical sensation in the body, we can begin to bring a curious, friendly attention to the sensations themselves, a breath at a time. Breathing in, from the beginning, middle to the end of the in-breath, noticing how the sensations may vary in terms of intensity or quality over the course of the in-breath. And then, breathing out, from the beginning, middle to the end of the out-breath again noticing any variation in the quality or intensity of the sensations. Then letting that breath go completely and starting freshly with the next breath in and the next breath out, noticing just one breath at a time as if it was the first breath, letting go of the last breath.
In this way, we are not struggling to change anything, we are making space for what is actually happening one breath at a time.
What’s your question? Let us know. We’ll post an answer on this page or in our next newsletter (with your permission).