presentmoment

Mindfulness is not a quick fix

I’ve had a few interesting conversations recently about mindfulness. Some people are comparing mindfulness to the multi billion dollar self improvement industry which is a misinterpretation of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is not a quick fix.

Mindfulness is a practice that dates back centuries, it has the backing of some of the most prestigious universities in the world and has scientific evidence to prove it’s effectiveness on mental health and well being.

To become a mindfulness practitioner, to fully embody mindfulness takes hard internal work, it does not happen over night. Mindfulness does not pretend to mend you, it teaches self acceptance, self compassion and far more than I can cover in this short space.

Why is there an increase in stress, anxiety and depression, when there is so much self improvement advice available?

I’ve read every self development book published, starting from Anthony Robbins to Napoleon Hill and attended too many workshops and seminars to remember. There is no doubt that developing the ability to see things from a brighter perspective is better than always seeing things negatively.

However this constant high, always living in a state of positiveness is unsustainable because it is unnatural. Unfortunately life is made up of good, bad and ugly. The sooner we can come to terms with that the better it is for us.

Self improvement is always forward thinking:

“When I look better or get that better job or find that perfect person, life will be great!!”

So let’s improve our appearance because right now, right this minute I’m not good enough.

Yes let’s work hard to get that better job because the one we have right now is not enough.

Oh and when I meet that Mr or Mrs Perfect, life will be perfect because right now, being me and being with me is not good enough.

Always looking forward to when things get better or looking backwards to all the things we did wrong.

Until one day you break because you get what you thought would make you happy and yet it’s still not good enough. Or you keep aiming for something that is unobtainable until you just run out of life.

Hence the emotional sickness going around today.

To a degree the self improvement industry is to blame because it tells us to think positively, to turn negative inot positive, to think positive so that we attract positive things.

What do we do when things don’t go our way? How do we live with that?

Life doesn’t happen in the future or in the past. Life only happens in the now and before you even grasp that it’s gone.

So why is it so difficult for us to accept that now is good enough?

What would happen if we suddenly woke up to our life, today and said “hello, life is great right now!”

What would happen if we could embrace everything, the good, the bad and the ugly and just learn from every experience?

But what if life isn’t great right now?

I’d be naive if I didn’t acknowledge that of course some people’s lives are not great, some are barely living a life at all. Poverty, war, hunger, crime and horrific acts against humanity going on everywhere. But what does living in a state of anger, uneasiness and anxiety do to elevate any of this?

Perhaps instead of moaning about the state of the world and the way some people are forced to live, we lived our lives to the full and where possible we actually do something to help. Is that not more beneficial?

So if you are looking for a quick fix in life be warned, mindfulness is not going to fix you it’s going to wake you up to who you are. If that’s too hard to face, then perhaps come back to mindfulness when you are ready.

Compassion in action

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a Compassion in Action workshop at Samye Ling in Scotland. I had anticipated a lot of useful teaching but actually got much more than I had imagined.

“Compassion is kindness without judgment”

Sometimes I wonder why we find the most simple things in life so difficult to grasp and to apply in our lives. Mindfulness the practice of stillness, living in the present moment and developing a state of constant awareness, sounds easy but in reality it is challenging for most of us.

Compassion is kindness without expectations and conditions. It’s our natural state, we see that from watching babies and young children. They do not discriminate who they show love and kindness too, they don’t see colour, race, religion, gender and whatever else we use as a preference, they come with pure compassion built in. Over time we lose the capacity to be kind for the sake of it without a condition or judgement. Society, upbringing and all the other “stuff” fill us up so we are no longer able to just be compassionate without expecting something back.

Compassion – The only antidote to anger and aggression.

For centuries we have used aggression to fight aggression even though it only escalates the problem. We insist on sending armies in to other countries to fight and kill rather than deal with aggression with compassion in a peaceful way. What would really happen if we used compassion rather than aggression? Would we really be in more danger?

What can I do to change the world?

Sometimes we can get lost and overwhelmed when we hear news of tragedy and suffering like the current refugee crisis. We may feel a disconnect with society and lose hope, we can get into that state of seeing things as negative all around us.

The question is, who benefits from us becoming cynical and hopeless? It certainly doesn’t help those suffering. Moaning about a situation only fuels the negativity in us and others, it doesn’t change the situation.

Even the smallest act, whatever that might be will have a ripple affect. Our responsibility is to work on us, be the best person we can be, share our love, compassion and empathy. Help others regardless of who they are, judge less, moan less and act more. If we all did this, the world would be a much better place.

This video is a perfect example of compassion in action, it’s power is far greater than any act of violence and aggression.