Mindfulness has been making plenty of headlines lately. But despite all the magazine splashes, there are still a lot of misunderstandings and mistaken assumptions about what it is and what it’s good for.
And that’s a shame because these myths often end up putting people off.
Let’s break down some of the most common misconceptions – beginning with the idea that it’s a religion. It’s not, though it is a popular practice within many religions. Mindfulness is a mental training technique that’s compatible with all sorts of beliefs and ideas.
But you have to sit cross-legged on the floor to practice mindfulness, right? Wrong! You can if you like, but most people practice it wherever they feel most comfortable.
What about time? Doesn’t mindfulness take up too much of it, and won’t it make you lazy?
In a word, no! You can be mindful anywhere from a minute to an entire day – it’s completely up to you. As for distracting you from your goals, it’s been shown that mindfulness actually helps to focus your mind.
Okay, so now that we’ve busted a couple of myths, let’s look at what mindfulness actually is. Essentially, it’s all about compassionate awareness. You observe your thoughts and the feelings they evoke like you would clouds in the sky, without criticising or taking action.
Take an example from everyday life. As you walk home from work, you begin thinking about how your colleague was rude to you earlier in the day. You could send an angry email complaining about their behavior when you get home. But what would happen if you just watched your negative thought take shape before flying away – wouldn’t it be better to simply let it pass?
Mindfulness is about the ability to let negativity pass over you like a raincloud. It grounds you in the present and keeps you attentive to what’s happening right then and there.