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April 18, 2014

3 Things Mindfulness is Not. ~ Ruth Lera

old yogi

The experience of practicing mindfulness or meditation is one that is most often beyond words.

There is an elusive quality to touching into the moment—and only this moment—that is hard to describe, perhaps impossible. However, in our North American perfectionist culture, which is obsessed with hating ourselves and constantly striving to be better, the word mindfulness has been usurped to mean many different things.

1. Getting It Right

How often have I heard people make a simple mistake such as stubbing their toe or writing the wrong number on a cheque; some little, normal human slip-up that we all make each and every day, and what do they say. “Oh, I wasn’t being mindful.” As though the reason the mistake occurred was because they weren’t mindful. Like if we were completely mindful all the time nothing bad would ever happen. This is a nice fantasy, but it isn’t true. Good and bad happen, all the time, this is just part of the human experience and mindfulness can be brought to every experience, not only for the ones we like.

“Through continual practice we find out how to cross over the boundary between being stuck and waking up. It depends on our willingness to experience directly feelings we’ve been avoiding for many years. This willingness to stay open to what scares us weakens our habits of avoidance.” ~ Pema Chodron

We don’t like making mistakes, but it is a act of courage to choose to be mindful of all experiences when they occur, even the ones we categorize as mistakes.

2. Being Forgetful

“Argh, I forgot my keys; that wasn’t very mindful of me.” Mindfulness is not a synonym for remembering. Mindfulness invites us to feel the tactile sensations of the present moment experience. See what we are seeing, feel what we are feeling. What do you notice in your body when you forgot your keys? What memories or thoughts does it bring up? This true experiencing of the moment is mindfulness and it can be brought to the experience of being forgetful instead of holding it up as an ideal that we need to become less forgetful.

3. Self-Improvement

Why do we come together to practice mindfulness and meditation? Because as humans we are interested in having quality of life, to in experiencing joy and compassion and gratitude, and we know being mindful helps. This does not mean we have to change who we are, we just need to experience more of who we are. If we are looking to become better does that mean right now we are worse? Mindfulness invites us to bring an attitude of loving friendliness to all experiences, even the pain of wanting to improve.

As a culture we are having a collective remembering of the playfulness of mindfulness. We just need to remember that mindfulness is not another way we need to change or another way we have made a mistake. Our consumer culture that preys on our sense of wrongness to sell us stuff might like us to think so, but we know better. Instead of using the term mindfulness to feel like we have done wrong let’s let mindfulness guide us back to each moment no matter what that moment brings.

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Apprentice Editor: Ola Weber / Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: Pixoto

Ruth Lera

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