How to Deal with Unhelpful Attitudes when Practicing Mindfulness
In order to practice mindfulness, you need to begin to let go of any perfectionist or impatient attitudes you may have towards it. If you struggle with the mindfulness meditation, you fall asleep or your mind wanders, try not to get angry or frustrated with yourself. Meditation is a practice you can cultivate over time. Develop an attitude of kindness towards yourself.
You don’t need to wait until your life is one hundred per cent perfect to start mindfulness practice.
Here are examples of common experiences that people think mean they’ve failed at meditation, and answers to them. See if any of them apply to you. Understanding and dealing with a perfectionist attitude can make a big difference to your experience of mindfulness.
‘I couldn’t concentrate. My mind was all over the place. I did it wrong!’ No one can concentrate continuously. Sooner or later your mind goes into thoughts, dreams, ideas or problems. The nature of the mind is to wander off. Lack of focus is an integral part of meditation experience.
‘I couldn’t sit still.’ Your body is designed to move. However, through training, slowly but surely you’re able to sit still for longer. If sitting really isn’t for you, remember you can still do mindfulness when you move — that’s the beauty of it! Try exercises that integrate awareness such as yoga and t’ai chi, or any other action you choose in a mindful and therefore meditative way.
‘I felt bored/tired/frustrated/angry/annoyed/jealous/excited/empty.’ You’re going to feel a variety of emotions in your meditation, just as you do in your everyday life. The difference is, instead of reacting to them automatically, you have the valuable opportunity to watch them come and go. In the long run, these emotions will probably calm down a bit, but in the meantime you need simply to be aware of them. If you can, enjoy the show!
‘I had a negative experience.’ People have both pleasant and unpleasant experiences in meditation. The experience may be anything from deep sadness to feeling as if you’re disappearing, or your arms may feel as if they’re floating. Your mind may be releasing emotions from your unconscious into your conscious mind. This is part-and-parcel of mindfulness meditation. Let the process unfold by itself as much as you can.
Try not to think of meditation experiences as good or bad. Instead, see all experiences as opportunities to learn something new about yourself.
If you feel yourself becoming very concerned or frightened and these feelings are on-going, you may need professional support, so contact your doctor or therapist.