Friday, May 1, 2009

Why is Mindfulness So Hard?

My husband calls me anti-zen, but I really am trying to learn. It's just that doing anything mindfully for more than 10 seconds is really hard.

Yesterday I watched a six-minute video of Thich Nhat Hahn talking about mindfulness and I couldn't even watch that mindfully. I thought a lot about how hard mindfulness is, what I've tried in the past, what has and has not worked for me before, etc. I even thought, I should blog about this. I was on the same subject he was, but I probably missed a lot of what he was trying to say.

I don't think my mind has ever not being doing multiple things at once. If nothing else, I am constantly analyzing everything all the time. I mean all the time. I had always considered my mental multi-tasking to be a strength, but is it really a stumbling block to my spiritual growth? I enjoy basic seated meditation, but trying to bring an attitude of mindfulness into the rest of my life is much much harder. How much do I need to incorporate it into my daily life? If I devote times and activities to mindfulness, can I be a mental monkey the rest of the time?

Sometimes when I am trying to apply mindfulness, someone, like one of my kids, will interrupt me, which is very very irritating. Now am I mad and frustrated because can't she see I was trying to be mindful? I'm pretty sure this is the exact opposite of the intended effect.

I love the idea of mindfulness meditation. I like that it's a calming and contemplative discipline that doesn't require theist beliefs. It sometimes seems like that is just not how my brain wants to work. Does anyone have any ideas that have worked for them? How have you moved mindfulness from the meditation mat out into your life?


  1. Oh man, I so identify with this. Every single sentence. In the last couple of years,I have slowly brought mindfulness to more areas of my life, and have stopped being so irritated when life (i.e. my family) intrudes ;).

    One way is to be mindful with my interactions with them. I'm a yeller - so one way that I work on incorporating mindfulness is to breathe carefully and intentionally when I'm frustrated with my kids, and to be intentional about what I'm saying, how I'm saying it, etc. Mindful about folding the laundry, cooking, etc. And the interruptions are seeming less like interruptions.

    Caveat: If I can attain this state of mindfulness in my regular(not seated meditation) life for 45 min. a day, that is a huge feat. I figure by the time I'm 300 years old, I'll have it figured out!

  2. I find that I have to first deal with the current fears, resentments, and harms done to others. This is a daily task which I write out just before sleep.

    If I am powerless over a fear, e.g., I could lose my job, then I write down what I can do, e.g., start a job search while still employed. I have noticed that most of my fears never come to pass and that my worrying was wasted energy.

    I am likewise powerless over almost all people and institutions that I resentment. Admitting my powerlessness does not mean I agree, validate , or condone the action of the other. It does mean I am free of replaying the resentment in my head which only does me harm.

    Doing this on a daily basis frees up a tremendous amount of energy and clears a path for mindful living.

  3. If it's any consolation, I'm still working on the meditating part. To sit still for any amount of time is incredibly difficult. But I have been hearing a lot about this mindfulness, and I need to bring this into my life. Thanks for letting me know that I'm not alone in all of this. :)

  4. Thanks everyone. It's nice to know I'm not alone in this. It is actually hard; I'm not just really bad at it.

  5. That is exactly why the human condition is such a challenge. Like Henepola says" a deep, subtle and pervasive set of mental habits, a Gordian knot which we have built up bit by bit and we can unravel just the same way, one piece at a time."
    Appreciate and cherish the fact that you can do it one piece at a time. Even budhist masters have difficulty with it. Keep at it . Its worth it.

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  8. "Just as a bird needs two wings to fly so we also need to learn the two wings to mindfulness in order to free ourselves from suffering. The two wings are are Awareness (clearly seeing what is true in the present moment without judgment) and Compassion/Love (embracing that which is seen with tenderness and acceptance)." As I've found, acceptance is HUGE. Combine it with mindfulness, and you'll see what it is you need to accept.

  9. Hey bud I feel your pain, its the hardest thing ive ever attempted.

    1 things for sure world peace aint coming anytime soon its too freakin hard!