In recent times, most of us have been introduced to the concept of mindfulness – the idea that by focusing our attention on the present and bringing an attitude of openness and acceptance to whatever is happening, we can reduce our suffering and boost our mental health and live a more meaningful life.
In the past couple of decades, mindfulness-based treatments have become the ‘third wave’ of CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy). These treatments are highly effective in lowering stress and treating anxiety and depression, among a wide range of other conditions.
Drawing out some learnings here, from the certification course I did from Udemy under Kain Ramsay, a few months back. I hope this little piece of information will help the readers to understand what mindfulness is and what it isn’t.
Related: 5 Ways Of Using Mindfulness To Get Over A Breakup
12 Myths around Mindfulness
Human beings have a hugely unhelpful tendency of rejecting those things that they do not understand, and subsequently, have had many complaints about mindfulness (and the practice of it).
For the most part, these claims are commonly based on misunderstandings of what mindfulness is (and isn’t) about.
BUSTING MYTH 1) Mindfulness is not the same as positive thinking
When we practice mindfulness, we are practising being with all mind states – the good, the bad and the neutral.
BUSTING MYTH 2) Mindfulness is not a quick fix
It takes discipline to practice mindfulness, and time to unlearn the patterns of a lifetime, so letting go of particular expectations, being patient and trusting in the process is a helpful attitude to adopt.
BUSTING MYTH 3) Mindfulness is not a miracle cure
It won’t make our stress or pain go away, but if we meditate regularly, it will change the way we relate to the awkward moments in life. Our typical reaction might be to avoid unpleasant feelings, however, by learning to stay present when we experience painful thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, we can learn to relate differently to them. We see the extra ‘stories’ we create about the pain or difficulty and learn to let them go thereby letting go of the additional suffering that is often generated by ourselves.
BUSTING MYTH 4) Mindfulness is not a religion
Although initially founded on Buddhist practices, some of its central teachings stem from ancient Hebrew scripture and today is taught in countless secular ways.
BUSTING MYTH 5) Practising mindfulness is not about learning to relax
You might relax when you meditate but then you might not – this doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. We are not practising to achieve any particular mind state but merely noticing our experience whatever it may be.
BUSTING MYTH 6) Mindfulness is not trying to empty our mind of conscious thought
Rather we are learning to see our thoughts as passing mental events and respond to them (on interpreting them) with greater accuracy.
Related: Mindfulness for Mental Wellness in Women
BUSTING MYTH 7) ‘My mind is too busy to meditate’ is a common belief but it is the nature of the mind to be busy and always looking for new things
When we practice, we are learning to let go of our thoughts and return to the point of focus (such as the breath). Our mind will quickly wander again, and the instruction remains the same: as soon as you realise your mind has gone for a walk, acknowledge this as ‘thinking’ and bring it back to the focus without any judgement.
BUSTING MYTH 8) When we talk about ‘living in the moment’ we don’t mean living without any regard to the future and consequences
It simply means paying attention to our experience in the present moment. The past has already happened and can’t be changed; the future will be determined by what we do now. Therefore the present moment is the only moment where there is an opportunity to do something different.
BUSTING MYTH 9) The benefits of mindfulness will be experienced if we practice regularly
Little and often is better than longer and occasionally. It is better to ‘weave our parachute’ by making mindfulness part of our everyday life rather than just wheeling it out when things are difficult are hoping that it will make all our problems go away.
BUSTING MYTH 10) Meditating doesn’t just mean sitting or walking practice
We can meditate informally by intentionally paying attention to our experience as it unfolds without judging it. So next time you want to experience ‘being in the moment’… avoid thinking about your ‘to-do list’ or about something that has already happened. Simply be.
BUSTING MYTH 11) There is no right or wrong way of being mindful
Many mindfulness teachers suggest that there is a ‘right’ way or a better way of practising mindfulness. The truth is, mindfulness is a subjective personal experience, so what might work for one person, might not work for another.
BUSTING MYTH 12) Learning mindfulness is not a linear process
Often we have to learn the same lessons over and over, and sometimes our attention feels very focused, but then at other times very distracted. Practising mindfulness is a life-long journey that provides endless opportunities for learning.
If we can expose these kinds of beliefs about mindfulness as myths, we can remove one barrier to being in our lives in a far more profound way. Most of us find it challenging enough to practice mindfulness consistently even without having serious misgivings about its main ideologies and foundations.
Let me know your thoughts on the same.
Love and light
Priyanka Nair is the author of 26 Days 26 Ways for a Happier you and Ardhaviram. An NLP practitioner and Founder of Sanity Daily, helping you prioritize your mental health. Let’s build a happy community.