Busting myths about mindfulness

Myth 1 – Mindfulness is about zoning out / being away with the fairies / entering a different realm.

Actually it's about being more connected with the here and now than ever before. It's about accepting the present for how it truly is. Being aware of the stories in your head but not indulging in them. Not being swept up in the numerous thought clouds that pass by in your mind. It’s about being rooted in the present, grounded, balanced. Mindfulness is not about trying to achieve some sort of high or blissful state. Yes there are moments of enormous peace but that is a bonus, you are still very present whilst enjoying the feeling of peace. You do not leave your body entering into some sort of trance. Instead you choose not to indulge in the trance of thinking (the virtual reality/idealised film that we all play in our heads) and instead you turn towards the present moment, into true reality.  

 

Myth 2 – Mindfulness is about switching off from life and being unproductive.

On the contrary, you’ll find that you’re more switched onto life, more awake to what is actually going on around you which leads to greater focus and productivity. Yes mindfulness can help us to embrace being mode more often - bringing our intentions and actions into the here and now. But by doing so we actually become more focussed individuals as we’re less distracted by our thoughts, instead becoming more aware of when the autopilot has kicked in and when to refocus on our goals. Moments of clarity can pop up – I often find this happens when my mindfulness practice has just ended. I find that answers to questions I’ve been mulling over for weeks can just appear in my brain with sharp clarity.

 

Myth 3 – Mindfulness is only for chilled people/I'm too tense for mindfulness

Trust me if mindfulness was only for chilled people I would not be here writing this now. I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying about the future/in a state of anxiety about various things. It turns out I was actually ideally suited to mindfulness as I needed to step away from the future and instead embrace the present more. Yes I am more chilled than I used to be but this does not mean that I never get stressed about things (I am human after all) and when we are tense in life mindfulness is actually the perfect remedy to help us to calm down our stress response, moving us towards greater resilience.

 

Myth 4 – Life is too busy for mindfulness.

I thought this when I decided to give mindfulness a go. At the time I was mum to a one year old with what little time for me. Turns out I did have time (nap time/getting up before him in the morning/evenings when husband was home), I was just choosing to spend that time watching TV to escape reality for a while and relax. Interestingly, Jon Kabat Zinn (the founder of mindfulness) actually used the ‘pacing the floor’ opportunity for mindfulness when he had his newborn. All those times when he was up in the night pacing the floor because the baby wanted to be close – he chose those times to practice mindful walking and breathing techniques. Let’s not forget informal mindfulness too – this is simply tuning into the present more when undertaking those everyday activities that can seem dull or mundane. Chores such as hanging out the washing and paying attention to your breathing or the sounds of the birds in the trees.

 

Myth 5 – Mindfulness jars with certain religions

Mindfulness is non-secular, it does not have a belief system attached to it therefore does not jar with other belief systems. Yes it originated in Buddhism but Jon Kabat Zinn took the eastern philosophy and applied it to 21st century western science making it applicable to all.

"It looks like you've got a little pain behind those eyes"

Have you ever asked a friend or family member if they're ok when you already know the answer? They're not ok, something is wrong and you can see it and feel it. They may not tell you at that moment because perhaps the circumstances aren't right (not a safe environment to talk/kids are demanding attention/it is a busy time of day/various other reasons) so you're met with a 'yeah I'm fine' response and a halfhearted smile. This leaves you more concerned, perhaps you have a knot in your stomach creating stories in your head about what they're going through. I wonder if its a case of being more mindful about how we ask the question.  

I was watching a film last night with a line that I thought was interesting. Two guys meet and one guy, Peter is clearly dealing with a lot of emotional pain so the other guy, Kunu says "It looks like you got a little pain behind those eyes". Many people have already tried to help Peter at this point in the film but each time they have been buffered away with an "I'm fine" type response. Because Kunu was honest and soft in his approach he was met with a genuine response of "yeah, maybe a little". Kunu actually asked the question he really wanted to ask without being afraid to do so. I think sometimes fear can hold us back from being honest with people about what we can really see. This can then affect how close we get in our relationships. 

Mindfulness helps us to speak from the heart more often with more truth and less skimming around the edges. Because it helps us to open up our own hearts more (listening to ourselves more in meditation) we then learn to open up more freely with others, acknowledging the fear and then letting it go. I have noticed that words come to me now that I would not have found before mindfulness. That's not to say that I always get it right (we're all human after all) but I feel I trust my gut instinct more and pause more frequently to observe the situation before speaking from the heart. As my true self comes out, so does that of others.