We all have aspirations in life to improve in some way. Perhaps is learning how to manage our anxiety, climb out of a depression, break free from our addictions, or improve at some skill at work. At the end of the day, what will always happen is at some point or another we’ll find ourselves in the undesirable place that we were trying to get away from.
Thoughts of failure rain down, “Great, I’m back as square one.” The beauty of mindfulness is it teaches us that no matter what the problem is, it can be worked with and as Sharon Salzberg, author of Real Happiness said, “We can always begin again.”
There is a misconception around mindfulness practice that the purpose of it is to sustain some kind of laser beam concentration on a particular object, let’s say the breath. In my experience, the purpose of the practice is to train our minds to be here in a particular way. So, when the mind wanders from the breath and we notice it that is perhaps the most important part of the practice.
Learning how to notice when we wander and how to bring our attention back is a critical skill in life.
If we’re at work and we’re constantly getting distracted, we can spend more attention damning ourselves for it and wishing we were different, or notice that we wandered, where we wandered to and choose exercise our power in that moment and gently guide our attention back to the task at hand. The latter is simply far more effective, but it takes practice.
Just focusing on our breath can provide us with that practice as it trains the mind to pay attention to the present moment and gives us practice with what to do when we notice it wandering.
It sends that implicit message that we can always begin again.
What would the following hours, days, weeks, months and years look like if our minds began reacting with the message, “we can always begin again” after we strayed. How is that different than the barrage of self criticism and judgment?
But, easier said than done and that’s the reason for training the mind.
We can do this in 1 minute, 5 minutes or 50 minutes. The breath is portable, so there are many options. If not the breath, use hearing or feeling into your body with a body scan.
The other message that gets sent is that we care enough about ourselves to pay attention to our experience. In other words, we feed ourselves self-love. This is wonderful nutrition for our minds and psyches.
The fact is, as long as you’re alive, there is more right with you than wrong with you and when you stray you can always begin again.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Photo by PD Breen, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.
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Last reviewed: 1 Mar 2011