Feeling Disheartened about your Mindfulness Practice? Here are 6 Mindfulness Myth Busters that will help you to Practice
Many people say that being mindful is the easiest thing in the world – it’s so simple that even children and dogs are doing it all the time! Yet our natural capacity to be mindful also seems so very difficult too. It’s easy to find ourselves struggling to really understand what on earth we are supposed to be “doing” and this could lead us to ditching the practice altogether.
Here are 6 Myths about Mindfulness that will help you to continue to practice.
Myth One – Mindfulness is about trying to clear the mind and get rid of thoughts.
Mindfulness is not about trying to do anything to our thoughts. If we tried to clear the mind of all thoughts – around 60,000 of them a day – we would more than likely find ourselves feeling extremely agitated. Instead, Mindfulness is about changing the relationship with our thoughts. Instead of believing them and relating to them emotionally, we learn to observe them instead and allow them to pass by, a bit like watching clouds pass by in the sky.
REMEMBER : YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. YOU DON’T NEED TO BELIEVE THEM ALL, OR TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY. THEY OFTEN DON’T TELL YOU THE TRUTH.
Myth Two – Practising Mindfulness will always leave me feeling calm and happy.
This is a common misconception and many people tend to have expectations about how they think they should feel when practising Mindfulness, usually relating to feeling calm, peaceful or happy. Actually the very act of trying to feel a certain way can create a sense of agitation. We are learning instead to be with and acknowledge what is actually going on in the present moment whether that be feeling sad, tense, happy or calm, rather than trying to grasp for an experience that isn’t actually there or resist an unpleasant one that is there. This resistance and fight is what creates much of our suffering in life.
REMEMBER: EVERY TIME YOU PRACTICE MINDFULNESS YOU MAY WELL HAVE A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE THAT WILL BE PLEASANT OR UNPLEASANT. SEE IF YOU CAN SIMPLY NOTICE AND OBSERVE WHATEVER IS HAPPENING, WITHOUT TRYING TO CHANGE IT.
Myth Three – If I practice Mindfulness, I’ll never feel upset or angry again.
It’s actually very normal for us humans to feel upset and also angry at times. Life can be challenging for all of us and Mindfulness practice helps us to become familiar with the whole array of emotions in a way that allows us to feel them in the body and to be more comfortable with them, even the unpleasant ones. Practising Mindfulness helps us to move closer to experiencing/feeling the physical sensations of different unpleasant emotions. It’s very common for that emotion to then quickly subside because we no longer fuel it by engaging in the script or thoughts about it. The unpleasant emotion will be allowed to flow through our bodies naturally, leaving us feeling more emotionally resiliant.
REMEMBER : EMOTIONS ARE A NATURAL PART OF BEING HUMAN. LEARN TO NAME EMOTIONS AS THEY ARRIVE AND FEEL THEM UNFOLD IN THE BODY, WITH INTEREST AND CURIOSITY.
Myth Four – I only need to practice Mindfulness when I’m feeling stressed
Its very common for people to choose to use Mindfulness as a tool during those particularly challenging times. This is fine if it helps you to manage those challenges more effectively. However, imagine if you had been practising mindfulness a little each day before the challenge arrived? You would be more likely to start from a place with a wider more healthy perspective on life, an ability to remain present instead of “freaking out” really quickly and therefore feel more emotionally resilient. Regular practice would cultivate an ability to accept challenges we cannot control and to identify wise options for those challenges that we have some choices about.
REMEMBER : WHY WAIT UNTIL IT RAINS TO FIX THE HOLE IN THE ROOF?
Myth Five – I’ve practiced a few times now, so I should be feeling better?
We live in a fast paced world in which we tend to struggle to be patient – we rarely have to wait for anything. Mindfulness practice is not like ordering an item from Amazon and expecting the delivery before you’ve even pressed the send button! It’s a life long journey and one that is well worth embarking on. It’s true to say however that many people who begin to practice Mindfulness tend to report, after a few weeks of regular practice, that they may feel for example calmer, less emotionally reactive and perhaps kinder to themselves and other people.
However this is just the start, everyone is different too and sometimes it’s not until we are faced with a challenge in life that we can begin to appreciate just how helpful our mindfulness practice can be. Many people also have expectations of how they think they should be feeling and this can lead to frustration because they are focussing on expectations, rather than simply seeing how things actually are in each moment.
REMEMBER : MINDFULNESS PRACTICE IS ABOUT LEARNING TO BE WITH WHATEVER ARRIVES IN THE MOMENT, WITHOUT ATTACHING TO IT OR WANTING IT TO BE DIFFERENT SOMEHOW, WHETHER THAT BE A SENSE OF CALM OR FRUSTRATION.
Myth Six – I don’t have time to practice for hours every day, so there’s no point in trying.
For many people, trying to find just ten minutes each day to sit quietly and practice mindfulness formally can feel almost impossible. One could argue that this is a sure sign that you are doing way too much! However, given that this is often a barrier to practising mindfulness and maybe an excuse to not even try, it’s important to encourage people to also practice informally.
Informal practice does not take up any extra time. For example, if you spend one hour driving to work each day and during that time you’re lost in thought about everything you have to do and why you don’t even want to go to work etc, perhaps winding yourself up; you could choose instead to spend some of that travel time practising informal mindfulness. This might include feeling your bum on the seat of the chair, feeling your grip on the steering wheel and softening it if your clenching it tightly, listening to the sound of the engine, observing other cars around you or trees and noticing any tension in the body that you could then choose to soften and breathe. Your journey time is the same, but the way you choose to spend the time may well be very different.
REMEMBER : TRY TO FIND AROUND TEN MINUTES EACH DAY TO PRACTICE FORMAL MINDFULNESS. INFORMAL PRACTICE CAN ALSO BE CARRIED OUT AT ANY TIME, ANYWHERE AND DOES NOT REQUIRE FINDING EXTRA TIME.