Updated: Feb 12, 2021
I struggle with mindfulness. I want to say that my attention issues and anxiety make it painful, I know that the real issue is that my mindfulness puts me more in touch with my emotional and physical pain. You wonder why mindfulness is something that doctors and mental health providers recommend.
It’s recommended because our ability to be present in the moment and experience our bodies and sensations allows us to live an integrated life which teaches our bodies to regulate and experience pain (and pleasure), which actually can increase a persons ability to live as well as improve their quality of life.
Mindfulness is defined by being present in the current moment without judgement. Meditation is the practice of mindfulness by redirecting (not controlling) the mind. We don’t control our minds more than we learn to be persistent in awareness and fully practicing the redirection of the mind.
I think a lot about mindfulness, pain, and expectation as of late. The thought is that the only pain we can avoid is the pain we experience trying to avoid pain. And that this pain is suffering which is actually avoidable (some would disagree). Another thought is that suffering is inevitable. Something I read in Buddhism Made Simple really sticks with me which is that a lot of pain in life is due to expectations, especially the expectation of obtaining a life that does not change. That we will get the good job and keep it, our loved ones won’t die, we will lose weight and not gain, we will get healthy and stay healthy, our mental health will be stable or familiar, etc. I think this also has a lot to do with the idea of control. We think we have more control than we do. We spend our lives obsessed with the idea of permanency and then we flail about trying to maintain it and prevent pain.
Find a way to practice mindfulness today. Take intentional breaths. Go on a walk and join your senses (what do you smell, see, taste, hear and feel (both physically and emotionally as we feel emotion in the body as well as psychically). Eat a meal and really ask yourself about the texture and flavor, resign yourself to experiencing a difficult emotion for a set period of time, do a guided meditation on insight timer, calm, headspace or Youtube. The options are limitless, but observe your experience and ask yourself what mindfulness does for you.