Mindfulness Meditation
    • Learning how our mind creates our world

The Challenge of Mindfulness

by on 06 October
My family has been very helpful to me in managing this small teaching business, especially with tips on how to do a better job of it. Most recently, my daughter - with a career in corporate communications - suggested I point out the difficulties, the challenges of mindfulness, and not just the benefits all the time. I thought it was good idea.


The practice of mindfulness begins, of course, with a daily meditation practice (say, 20 to 30 minutes) to cultivate concentration and awareness. So, you have to decide which other daily activities to eliminate or shorten to find the time to practice.


Then, you have to discipline yourself to do it every day, unless it’s totally impossible. Otherwise, you’ll be looking for reasonable excuses to avoid it. So, you need to apply tough love to follow through on your commitment. And, every time you do it, congratulate yourself.


The next requirement is diligence. Each time you sit to feel the breath, you need to work at it as fully and continuously as you can, albeit in a relaxed mode. Otherwise, you’re just going through the motions and wasting your time.


In addition to your daily sitting, you need to cultivate certain attitudes to assist your paying attention, both during meditation and during the day. Patience, non-judgement, kindness, trust, acceptance curiousity, and letting go. These attitudes represent our intentions, how we will behave as we practice mindfulness. 


And then there’s the practice of being mindful during as many moments of the day as possible - to increase our attention from the normal 50 per cent of the time to a much higher proportion of our waking moments. Mindfulness means, after all, remembering . . . to pay attention . . . to your outer experience but especially your inner experience of sensations, thoughts and feelings. Even though your mind might prefer to reflect upon or to plan an exciting event rather than focus on washing the dishes, or mowing the lawn. Use it or lose it - paying attention is a mental muscle which, having been strengthened during meditation, we need to apply during each of our daily events. 


And then, there are possible negative moments during the day to manage - moments of feeling irritated, angry, frustrated, embarrassed, impatient, anxious, struggling to cope, alone, uncomfortable, discontented, unworthy, or sad.That’s when we need to recognize what’s happening in our mind and heart, when we need to let go of such harmful thoughts, and just feel our breath until the negativity subsides. And then go on with our day, practising the more wholesome attitudes that we’ve been cultivating. It’s hard work.


And, perhaps once a day, reflecting upon a difficult, stressful moment and asking ourselves if our intentions in that experience were wholesome or not, were concerned with our well-being and the well-being of others involved or not. And, if not - if our thoughts were selfish or greedy or angry - to reflect upon what habit of ours likely led to this behaviour. To identify that habit and resolve to try to prevent it “next time” - the next time we find ourselves in similar circumstances when our “button” might get pushed again. In other words, to realize that our happiness comes from our own actions. It resides inside each of us but we need to let it flourish by weakening any habits of ours which can and do cause us stress - anxiety and/or discontent. Stress that most of us don’t even know we create every day, unconsciously.


So, these are the challenges of mindfulness - the hard work, the daily investments that the practice involves. But the pay-offs are plentiful indeed:

- enhanced concentration

- better sleep and less pain

- lower stress, anxiety, and depression

- insights to change past habits and past views that make life difficult

- greater sensitivity to others leading to better relationships

- increased emotional stability to face inevitable stresses

- and potentially, at higher levels of meditation after years of practice:

- blissful mental states

- perfect contentment, independent of any circumstances

Reflecting upon such profound benefits of living consciously, it’s not surprising that it’s a challenging practice - requiring time, strong intentions, discipline, diligence and courage.


Thanks, Norah. That adds a nice balance to all my praises of mindfulness over the years on this blog.

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