Mindfulness isn’t easy. Focusing your attention on one singular thing, returning your attention to that place when distractions – internal and external – try to pull you away, and maybe even trying to sit still for more than a few seconds…these intentions are the opposite of how we live our everyday lives. We never have to be focused on one thing – in fact, we hardly know how to be even if we wanted to. And if we’re going to be still for any period of time, we’re either going to be asleep or staring at a screen.
So, it’s no surprise that many people give up on mindfulness pretty early on. We don’t like to not be good at things, and society doesn’t exactly reinforce the value of contemplative thought these days. So why not just bail, right? And then, it happens…
Just when you think there’s no point to keeping up with a regular mindfulness practice, you realize you’re stuck in the worst traffic ever and you haven’t flipped anyone off yet. You’re listening to your super annoying co-worker talk about her wedding plans for the 200th day in a row, and you haven’t entertained thoughts of plucking her eyelashes out one by one. You’re merely hours from a huge deadline and you’re plugging away, getting the work done with only the slightest, occasional flicker of panic, instead of the usual tidal wave.
In other words, just when you think it’s time to stop showing up for mindfulness, mindfulness shows up for you. It’s right there in your regular, everyday life, creating that “space between stimulus and response,” and giving you the opportunity to choose what comes next.
I’ve been trying my hand at lots of different types of mindfulness for years now – heck, I’m even certified to teach it – and I still rarely would describe my practice as “easy.” But I know that every time I lose my focus, but realize that has happened and make the choice to come back, I’ve strengthened my brain’s ability to be present and intentional throughout other areas of my life.
Mindfulness is a sneaky operator sometimes. Even when you don’t think it’s working, it is. It’s making you more focused, clear, compassionate and present every time you make the choice to come back. So, don’t give up. You always have the option to begin again, and you’re just getting started.
Photo credit: Pasi Jormalainen