In our series we are exploring mindfulness as a tool to focus attention and think smarter. Today we look at what mindfulness is NOT by addressing three misconceptions that may be blocking you from receiving the benefits of this practice.
1. Mindfulness is a NOT a superpower
Mindfulness can sound saintly, practised by people who speak slowly and don’t eat meat. It has, however, shifted from being rather weird to becoming a point of pride for healthy and successful people – apparently it has been a tool of titans for years. But what about you and me? Ordinary people who make mistakes, get irritated and are often lazy and frantic at the same time?
Have a peek at this video below:
I agree with the content of this video, but the title is misleading. Mindfulness is NOT something you are born with, mutate into or achieve through expensive equipment. It is a disciplined practice –nothing more.
2. You do NOT have to stop thinking
When I mention yoga, I often get a response like, “Oh, I’m so stiff/unfit/restless, I can’t do yoga”. Of course, that is exactly why this person would benefit from practising yoga! We judge ourselves against the outcome of a practice, forgetting that those outcomes only come through the practice.
This happens with mindfulness too. Over time, contemplative practices calm the fluctuations of the mind until it can feel like there are no thoughts (outcome). However mindfulness (practice) does NOT ask you to stop thinking – which is impossible anyway. It only asks that you direct and redirect thoughts.
Related to the “stop thinking” myth is the misconception about where and how you can practice. It is a delicious privilege to retreat from the world and practice in quiet, comfortable, natural surroundings. However you do NOT need silence and solitude in order to practice. If we go back to the metaphor of the mind-gym, practising mindfulness in your daily environment is like training with heavier weights.
3. You will NOT feel calm and happy all the time (sorry)
I used to believe that meditation would make me serene; that I would have fewer, less intense and mostly positive emotions. Imagine the horror when I realised that it was bringing up more emotion in me, including negative emotions like anger and sadness.
Mindfulness will NOT make you emotionless, and it will NOT make you happy forever. However, it will enable you to quickly move through whatever emotion comes up – as if that feeling was a wave passing over a deep, calm ocean. And over time you may find (as I have) that you become better at being human – fully inhabiting your lived experience and sharing it with love.
As you practice mindfulness, let me know what obstacles you face and how are you overcoming them. Comment below 🙂
Yagesh is an actuary and yogini, devoted to building a wellbeing economy. Contact her for personalised lessons or corporate workshops.