We’ve all heard the word “mindfulness” so many times now, I have to wonder: does it hold any meaning anymore? It’s supposed to solve all of our problems, make our kids emotional geniuses, and turn us into powerhouses at work and in our relationships. Someone who is “mindful” looks great in yoga pants and spends most of their time watching sunrises on mountaintops, right? They have a regular meditation practice and they’re completely sure of themselves, all of the time, no matter what. And, of course, “mindfulness” makes a great posting on Instagram or Facebook; one that’s sure to leave other people feeling like they just aren’t doing enough to be that awesome.
Mindfulness has become a multi-million dollar industry, with lots and lots of hopes attached.
How many times have you seen something on social media that felt super inspiring as you read it? Here are a few bits of “advice” that I pulled off Instagram with just a few flicks of my scrolling finger…
- “Don’t listen to the feeling that you need to perform for others.”
- “Let your intuition guide you, not your fears or cravings.”
- “The next time someone judges you…smile and keep walking… because you don’t have a single thing to prove to anyone else…”
- “Turn those overwhelming mountains into manageable hills.”
So often, when we read things like that, we think “yeah! I’m going to do that!” And then the next time we face a real-life situation, that enthusiasm turns to “what’s wrong with me? I told myself I was going to be different this time!”
How depressing! The real bummer is that we can start identifying with these “failures” on our part. But this is a set-up! We’re told again and again how important it is to master our feelings, our emotions, and our mental attitudes, but the conversation too often seems to stop there. What the heck are we supposed to do?
Obviously, none of the above has anything to do with actual mindfulness. Marketable Mindfulness can be about making us feel like less than we are. Like we need to be different to be ok. All of that is about stretching outward to attain something that will bring us the happiness we crave.
This is, in fact, the exact opposite of what mindfulness actually is.
Mindfulness is old. And humble. And deeply personal. Mindfulness cannot be sold because it’s already with us, simply waiting there, ready when we are. It’s not about getting anything; it’s about looking inward at what is already here.
Easy, right? It’s simple, for sure, but the challenge lies in the idea of accepting what we find when we look inside. Do a thousand reactions occur when we look inside of ourselves? Judgements? Desires to be different? Dismay that we’re not like that person on Instagram?
Therein lies the work. Those reactions are expected, natural reactions. They’re ok, and they’re present in almost every human on the planet. That’s why Tara Brach, a well known Buddhist teacher and author, created her RAIN system. It’s a lovely, simple process that incorporates some very old concepts.
R – Recognize what’s going on
A – Allow the experience to be there, just as it is
I – Investigate with interest and care
N – Nurture with self-compassion
And there you have it. A simple, gentle way to start. And I do invite you to view it as a start. Mindfulness is a journey, not an occurrence. We all start out wobbly and unsure. People who dedicate their lives to it still have periods of unsureness. We all have questions, doubt, restlessness, and fatigue. That’s part of allowing the experience to be there, just as it is.
I won’t pretend that this blog post will answer all of your questions, or unlock the mysteries of your life (although that would be awesome, and if it does, please drop me a line). This is just the beginning of a conversation, and next month I’ll write more about why and how to incorporate genuine mindfulness into your life (hint: we won’t talk about Mindfulness, we’ll talk about Mindtraining). I’ll include no-cost, supportive ways to bring greater awareness into your life, and why it’s beneficial to do so.
In the meantime, here is a guided meditation if you’d like to practice RAIN. Not a bad thing to play around with as we dive into the holiday season! And as always, I’m here.