Being mindful is selfish.
If that statement pissed you off. But I want you to take a step back, breathe, and open you mind a bit.
Hear me out.
All the mindfulness shit that you are doing, because it is what you have been spoon-fed, is not necessarily helping anything. In fact, depending on the types of challenges or anxieties you are dealing with, it might actively be making things worse.
When it comes to the mindset and self-help stuff that is gaining traction lately, there are a number of things that I take issue with. Specifically when discussing the way we have adopted many traditionally eastern practices.
Most problematic is the fact that the west has adopted many of these practices without any historical context and sanitized them of any trace of spirituality in order to make them more digestible for westerners at large. Indeed, I could probably write an entire book about how the wet has culturally appropriated many traditionally eastern practices, from meditation to yoga, and white-washed them. Bear in mind that I’m a fairly staunch aethist, so the fact that I’m raising a stink about something losing is spiritual foundation is telling. Or should be.
This isn’t just troubling for the above reason. It’s troubling because by selectively pruning the practices down to suit the needs and attention spans of western audiences, gaps have been left in the practices that leave it incomplete, and often can confuse a practitioner.
Which leads me to Mindfulness.
When speaking about Mindfulness versus Meditation, they are often used interchangeably, but they are not. Mindfulness isn’t the same thing as meditation, it is a FORM of meditation. I’m seeing this trend in the mindset community where people are working SOLELY on mindfulness without attention to other forms.
Mindfulness is a selfish endeavor. That’s not a bad thing – in the context of other meditation techniques that incorporate other forms of being present, both with the world and with other beings and people. When done alone as a mindset practice, though, things get dicey.
Because it is selfish.
Personally I learned this the hard way. After I left military service, I spent about 5 years of my life in an unbalanced practice of mindfulness exercises. At the time, I needed it. I was seeking to find my place in the world. My military career ended. My marriage ended. I needed to do some soul searching and find myself.
Again, not a bad thing. Self-awareness is a critical skill and you all know how much I harp on it. My problem was that I worked so hard on self-awareness that I did it at the expense of others. For the sake of mindfulness I ended up in my head all day long.
There goes a thought…let it flow… Ok… Back to focusing on the breath. Breathe in, breathe out.
And on and on all day long until I finally sat down… to open my notebook and write about… Myself.
All the while the world was moving around me. Which sucks when you are also seeking to have better friendships and relationships and can’t see that you are so stuck in your head that you aren’t paying attention.
I need to reiterate. Being mindful is NOT bad, but rather it is a component of a larger self-awareness, spirituality, and meditative practice. This may include things like yoga, meditation, active listening, etc.
As I alluded to above, mindfulness practice seems to be the one that is pushed on most westerners because eit is so user friendly: there isn’t much spirituality attached to it, so secular people are cool with it, and it isn’t as potentially anxiety causing as meditation can be. (Yes, to some people, the act of attempting to think about nothing is so initially challenging that it is a cause of anxiety rather than a relaxing endeavor).
Am I saying to ditch your mindfulness practice, delete all your mindfulness apps, and join a monastery or something? No, but what I’m saying is that finding a yin and yang type balance to enhancing your mindfulness while not losing sight of life around you is the key to really getting ahead. Too much of anything is never good.
And too much mindfulness is straight selfish.