December 2, 2013

When Mindfulness Sucks. ~ Tilley

Warning: Grown-up Naughty Language!

While I consider myself a newcomer to yoga, mindfulness and meditation, they’ve been on my periphery for a long time.

I’ve dabbled in some yoga here and there, done Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation) pretty much every morning for a few years and mindfulness meditation has had a permanent place on my yeah, I should probably do that at some point list.

Daily mindfulness, or awareness, is something I’ve been bringing into my life bit by bit. I’ve been on a long journey of breaking my need to check Facebook while I’m eating, scrolling through Tumblr on my phone while waiting in line, the constant thought, “If I’m not doing as many things at once as possible, I’m wasting time!”

It’s incredibly freeing to put down the phone. It’s exciting when I suddenly realize I haven’t checked it for over an hour and don’t even know where it is.

I’m more present when I’m walking, when I’m out eating with friends, when I’m with my lovers, when I’m dancing, when I’m just breathing and not doing much of anything. It’s relaxing, it’s joyful. I notice beauty around me and my relationships with others deepen.

But what all the serene quotes about mindfulness on photos of wise-looking monks don’t tell you is:

Mindfulness can also suck. Big time.

As I’ve purposefully expanded my awareness of myself, my patterns, my habits and my tensions, they have become more obvious—to the point where it seems like they start to become more numerous. As we climb up the mountain of self-knowing and awareness, it seems the path gets steeper and steeper.

For a physical example, I did something to my knee recently. When I went to the physiotherapist, she checked it out, told me what was probably going on, asked me to do some gentle exercises and keep an eye on it over the next two weeks.

I thought I had mild, occasional pain in the knee after exercising, but now I’ve noticed not only is the pain more frequent and severe than I thought it was, but there is also pain in the other knee, too.

I guess there’s a chance that it’s a case of mild hypochondria, but I don’t think that’s true. I’ve had similar experiences with other physical symptoms a doctor has asked me to suddenly keep track of, write down, etc.

I became aware of my jaw tension and teeth-clenching, and now it seems like I have to spend every other second actively relaxing my jaw.

And once I started having deep tissue massages, I became a lot more aware of just how ridiculously tight and knotted my muscles are. When you start to pay attention, man, you really start to notice how fucked up your body is.

Mindfulness is costing me some serious money in massages! Ugh.

The same is true when we become more mentally and emotionally aware. Surely, I can’t be alone in this.

On the inward journey of self-awareness, unearthing our ingrained, self-destructive emotional patterns in life and relationships, stripping away our layers of masks and bullshit, it seems like my epiphanic revelations about myself have recently been coming thick and fast, once a week if not more!

This is great, on one hand, because of course it is a relief to notice sources of old patterns that have been holding me back (and, therefore, feel like I can start changing them). But on the other hand, it’s also kind of draining.

You know those really intense therapy sessions where you end up in tears and also laughter, feel terrible and then amazing, then you go home and pass out, exhausted? Yeah, welcome to pretty much every other day in my head right now.

In meditation, loose hairs itch my face and I get annoyed with myself for not being able to transcend the irritation. In my quest to leave my phone alone more, I am appalled by the intensity and frequency of my Facebook addiction urges. Yep. Awareness kind of sucks.

Despite this, I wouldn’t change it for the world. Sure, my knees hurt and my muscles are tight. I see how weak and insecure I can be and my addictions and habits drive me crazy.

But you know what? Growing pains, my friends: it hurts to evolve.

Shedding your old skin means growing too big for it first. Becoming a butterfly means liquefying yourself in a cocoon. It’s uncomfortable. It’s ugly. And in all honesty, it will probably never get easier.

But given the choice between an unconscious, comfortable, easy life and the life of evolution, authenticity, hard work, struggle and revelations, which my life is becoming, I know which I’m gonna pick, every time.

The path may get steeper as we climb up that mountain but the view up here is fucking. breathtakingly. beautiful.

Come climb with me.


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Editor: Steph Richard

{Photo: elephant journal digital archives}

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