There are many myths and misunderstandings regarding what a mindful meditation practice is. So let’s start from the end. I’ll explain what I mean by starting from the end. I have a friend who, while in music school years ago, used to practice all the wrong notes in a musical scale on his saxophone. This seemed a bit odd to me so I asked why he did this. He said, if you know the notes that don’t work well then you are more likely to choose the ones that do work without hunting. You can express yourself musically without thinking. First he learned what the scale was not…hmm.
As I teach a mindful stress & anxiety management (MSAM) course I notice that by the third session or even later I have a few members talking about how frustrated they are at not being able to “empty their minds”. The first two weeks are replete with information about what mindfulness meditation is and how we are not trying to block or get rid of our thoughts. It appears that with our busy schedules and frantic lives that sometimes moving forward with the information the we think we know can block the moment of learning that is in front of us. (Not really so difficult to not be mindful in a beginners mindfulness group).
Without a little first hand knowledge and experience it is pretty easy to remember bits and pieces of what you have heard over time and just go with that thinking and being sure that you have it covered. But did you really have it covered? No worries most if not all members in the group get what a mindful meditation practice is by the end of the class. So with the intention of starting our practice off in an informed way here are some things that a mindful meditation practice is not.
Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind of thoughts.
Mindfulness in not a relaxation exercise. Although relaxation can occur as a side effect.
Mindfulness is not a religion.
Mindfulness is not escape from pain. Although with practice you may learn to relate to your pain differently.
Mindfulness is not about transcending ordinary life. Although you may with practice end up enjoying the moments that you have more and more.
Mindfulness is not about becoming emotionless and unmotivated.
I will talk about what mindfulness is next time. I will also get on the learning curve to practice inserting a few formal guided meditations.