I want everyone to know that I’m being mindful to be mindful. I know you’re mindful of the need these days, to always be mindful. So anyway, this is all about the “mindfulness” craze and how it’s turning into one big “me, me, me fest!” If you believe some people, being mindful means being narcissistic.
Its seems everywhere you look, there’s someone talking about how glorious it is to be mindful. There are no shortage of books on the subject either– here are just a few:
- Make Peace with Your Mind– How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Your Inner Critic
- The Power of Off- The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World
- Mind – A Journey to the Heart of Being Human
- The Headspace Guide To a Mindful Pregnancy
- Mindful Politics: A Buddhist Guide to Making the World a Better Place
- The Mindful Diet: How to Transform Your Relationship with Food for Lasting Weight Loss and Vibrant Health
Well, you get the idea…there are so many books and websites on this latest craze, it boggles the mind.
In case some of you are curious as to what ‘mindfulness’ means, join the club — there areno shortage of definitions and interpretations.
Mindful.org defines it like this:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
UC Berkely says its:
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
The problem with mindfulness today, is that people are no longer clear on what it actually means to be mindful. Because of this uncertainty, the ‘practice’ of mindfulness has morphed and twisted. People are being drawn into this craze, convinced it’s a cure-all, which of course, it’s not. Some claim that mindfulness is a cure for depression, sleeplessness, lack of concentration, stress, anxiety chronic pain, and even eczema.
As with any trendy panacea (alleged), there are folks who re-shape and customize the fad, creating an almost false, cult-like hybrid of the original concept, making promises they can’t keep.
But true, authentic mindfulness is being usurped by imposters, and they are presenting their version of ‘mindfulness’ as the only real, effective definition of mindfulness.
There are many self-proclaimed ‘mindfulness’ gurus who are passing it off as a miracle quick-fix for that ails us in the modern world and in the process, turning devotees into selfish, self-absorbed people who become fixated only on themselves.
For example, some ardent believers in mindfulness say that it’s all about being present with what is actually going on in that very moment — but, experiencing your own feelings without attaching yourself to the feelings.
UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center held a symposium on mindfulness in June and the promotional material heralded: “When we attend to the present moment over a sustained period of time, practitioners report deeper connection to themselves, more self-compassion, and greater insights into their lives.”
There are those words again: “themselves” (me), their lives (me), “experiencing your own feelings (me), “…without attaching yourself to….” (me).
Everyone should join the cult of me, me, me!
True mindfulness is not about emptying the mind. Though mindfulness is Buddhist in origin, the truth is, completely emptying the mind is almost impossible. The real emphasis is supposed to be on full awareness and not just on a single moment. Can we really ever totally forget or block out the past? Is it reasonable for us not to think about the future? Of course not. You need the past to help you move into the future and you need a sense of hope about the future to get you there. The key is not to ruminate on the past or stress about the future, but to be more grounded in the present, so you actually enjoy the life you have now.
Think about it — some mindfulness gurus say you should be mindful on all things: Are you looking at the roses in the park? Be mindful. If a dog runs up to you while you’re looking at those roses, do you then stop being mindful of the roses and become mindful on the 30 seconds the dog wants to play with you? What then? Do you then become mindful of the cracks in the sidewalk as you head home?
True mindfulness is really meant to recognize every instant of existence, even those of discomfort — it’s meant to get us to pause, reflect and gain some perspective on life as a whole.
Real mindfulness is about being more humble in the sense that it puts the self in its proper place within the grand scheme of things — not to become so wrapped up in one’s self that we see the world only from our perspective — believe it or not, the world does not revolve around you or me.
If we, as some would lead us to believe, should see our every moment’s thought as earth-shattering and of consequence to ourselves and the cosmos, can you imagine what our world would become? We should accept a thought as just that…a thought, but we should not treasure every thought that comes into our head as the key to the universe.
This faux form of mindfulness is pure self-indulgence, while promising health, happiness, success and spiritual enlightenment. Again, I believe this to be hogwash. All this faux mindfulness is a headfirst jump into pure, undiluted narcissism.
Is the problem more about how it’s promoted than it’s practiced?
I think the risk is not only that mindfulness is being twisted into a form of hedonistic “me”, but the benefits are being over-hyped and presented as a miracle. Breathing exercises are phenomenal, but not if you think only of yourself when doing them, and they certainly are not a cure-all.
Tempered self-examination is a good thing, but the purpose should be to gain an awareness of one’s emotional reactions to people and situations and to get a better understanding of how we think and react and how that affects ourselves and, others.
Personally, I think that perhaps the best way to practice ‘mindfulness,’ is to do a bit of research on it, decide for yourself how you want to be mindful, and then head out into nature to reflect.
The best goal with mindfulness, at least for me, is to be less frantic and “busy.” When our mind wanders to the past or the future too much, we do need to be aware that it’s happening and why — if mind-wandering is so distracting that you’re missing out on the beauty of the ‘now,’ something needs to be done to level it out. The world is not here solely for ‘us’ as individuals, but is in fact, a shared space we all need to peacefully coexist within – if we become mindful of that reality, I think we’re all on the right track.
Read more: You also may like this great resource on Mindfulness: The Art Of Mindfulness: Why Mindfulness Matters