Mindfulness Myths: #4 It’s a Quick Fix

rainbow2Mindfulness has nearly become a household word, yet many of us only have only a surface understanding of its meaning and practices. In this series, I discuss the most common myths I encounter about mindfulness through my work as a psychologist and mindfulness coach and I attempt to debunk them.

Myth #4: A Little Meditation Will Cure All That Ails You

Researchers are discovering a number of benefits that appear to be correlated with mindfulness practices. In fact, many of these benefits can be seen in a relatively short period of time and with surprisingly limited exposure. However, mindfulness practices are called practices because for most people they require consistent, repeated use over time in order to develop. They are not a cure, but a new way of relating to experience. It just so happens that this new way of being, over time, often brings with it a decrease in suffering.

From time to time I encounter clients who are frustrated with or disappointed by a perceived lack of progress after a relatively short period of practice (such as an 8-week course). They have some important goals in mind and they feel they have not yet achieved them. As human beings, it is habitual for us to create expectations, measure ourselves by comparison, and strive for results. However, when we apply these conditioned ways of doing things to our mindfulness practice, we miss the point.

Mindfulness is about being rather than doing. It requires a beginner’s mind, which means letting go, as best we can, of preconceived notions and expectations. It also requires non-judgment, or curious observation rather than grasping after what is wanted and rejecting what is unwanted. We are just allowing things to be as they are and learning from what we encounter. In striving for an impressive result, we miss the subtleties of our experience. The benefits of a mindfulness practice can be quite subtle – I like to say it happens “millimeter by millimeter” and is easily missed. However, the subtlest of changes are often the most profound and lasting.

You once told me
You wanted to find
Yourself in the world –
And I told you to
First apply within,
To discover the world
within you.

You once told me
You wanted to save
The world from all its wars –
And I told you to
First save yourself
From the world,
And all the wars
You put yourself
Suzy Kassem, Apply Within

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