Since posting my last entry on mindfulness, I’ve had a few conversations about how frustrating mindfulness can be. These aren’t the first discussions I’ve had about the difficulties surrounding the practice of mindfulness. I’ve brought it up
to my teachers about my own frustrations and have talked with clients about keeping at it even when it seems impossible to do. Mindfulness isn’t easy but, for some reason, we tend to expect ourselves to master the technique of being present-minded without judgment almost instantly. When we don’t, we judge ourselves (and/or the practice of mindfulness). This judgment can lead to giving up pretty quickly and, as a result, our toolbox of performance enhancement strategies may end up missing one of its sharpest tools.
I believe we expect instant mastery of mindfulness because, at face value, it’s a simple concept. Although simple, it’s something many of us have little to no experience with and, thus, it’s really hard to master. I also think that evolution has put us as a species at a disadvantage with regard to being present-minded because our ancestors spent hundreds of thousands of years protecting themselves from potential threats (e.g., worrying about the future: “I don’t want to get eaten by a saber-toothed tiger; thinking of the past: Bob had a pretty bad run-in with a saber-toothed tiger) in order to survive. But that’s a whole other discussion and one that could go on for hours (or pages). For today’s entry, I’ve decided to keep it short and sweet.
When we try something new, we need to expect there to be a learning curve before we get better at whatever we’re doing. For example, if you decide to start playing the guitar you’ll need to practice a TON before you can be the next Slash or Eric Clapton. The same is true for mindfulness. The more we practice, the better we get at it. The better we get at it, the better equipped we’ll be to shift our focus intentionally when faced with distractors and/or adversity.
In the end, it’s important for us (myself included!) to remember that even the best guitarists and mindfulness experts in the world aren’t perfect.