When we talk about mindfulness, there is a lot of talk about just being. Being in the moment. Not forcing anything. No push or pull of yourself- your thoughts, your emotions, or your body. A principle of non-striving.
Whoa! Non-striving? Well, anyone who isn’t striving surely will never compete in this fast-paced, go-getter society. They will squander. They will fail. Or will they? I am as guilty of a “what’s next” mentality as anyone (see my post on Patience). However, the non-striving mentality is what allows us to clear the mental rubbish and excel!
Mindfulness does not assume that you shouldn’t have goals. That you shouldn’t do better, try harder, or serve more. Principles of non-striving are to assume that we do not force any outcome and that we are able to flow with the process. As a therapist, I learned an important lesson when I placed my expectations on my clients as to where I thought that they should be in the process. I was pushing for a different outcome, striving for something that was not mine to strive for. I also see this happen with individuals who are creating a mindfulness practice. They are striving for an end result, seeking relaxation or enlightenment. What do you see as possible outcomes for these scenarios? A struggle between me and my client and a lack of relaxation. Ever become more anxious when you are having a restless sleep and the end result is less sleep and more anxiety? Yup! This is what I am talking about. When we can clear out our expectations of ourselves to achieve, then we can also take away the punishment that we put ourself through. When we stop that punishment, we can objectively see what kept us from achieving and move forward.
Not only can we practice non-striving in this go-getter society, but we will get there faster if we do!
Trusting your intuition is one of life’s greatest skills. You are the expert of you. I, for instance, may have expertise in diet, exercise, behavior modification, mindfulness-based stress reduction, but I am not the expert of you.
Trust is the ability to give complete faith in yourself that you are knowledgable, capable, and good. It is the ability to operate by your value system, to do your best, and to forgive fallacy. It is yet another principle of mindfulness. To be fully connected to yourself, present with yourself, aware, so that you can do your best and thus, trust that you did.
You know that feeling when you are pleasantly surprised? It might be when you return to a restaurant for an incredible meal after your first experience was a bust, maybe when you slugged into the gym and had the best workout in months, or the all-too-familiar scenario when one partner anticipates that the other hasn’t unloaded the dishwasher, yet again, walks in with a stink face but is greeted by a clean sink. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? Can you foresee how some of our predetermined assumptions could have negatively impacted the outcome of our event. We quite possible could have missed out on something great or started something terrible because of our forlorn conclusions.
I remember the struggles that I experienced with this when I was actively practicing hot yoga. For anyone that has not taken a Bickram hot yoga class, I will preface with each class is more or less the same. You are taken through a similar series of poses while sweating your butt off. I would go to the class and have expectations about what was next and how I should “perform” it. I found myself more critical and frustrated with myself when I would have “off” days. I would tell myself that it was the same routine and that I should be constantly getting better, rather than cheerleading myself for being present, increasing my flexibility, strength, and stamina, or allowing myself the time for practice.
Approaching each situation with a Beginner’s Mind is another mindful principal. You are able to approach each situation with intrigue and without the wherewithal to prejudge. You open yourself up to new possibilities- possibilities that we can either enjoy or learn from. It’s almost like approaching each event like a child- curious, without judgment, open to possibility.
Next time you find yourself approaching a situation that you would typically find less than desirable, try reproaching with a Beginner’s Mind.
** For more information like this, please check out the upcoming workshop, Mindfulness in Daily Living, as well as aLeader coming soon.
I read once that patience was a form of wisdom. And then I became impatient with myself for not being more wise, not having more patience. When I began graduate school, I wanted to know everything about counseling. I have become frustrated with myself at the gym or in yoga when my performance wasn’t at a standard that I had set for myself.
I realized my lack of patience some years ago and have been trying hard to grow, but still struggle. My struggle with patience is not so much with the crying child, inefficient bank teller, or the person that cuts me off in the road. Oh, no. My patience is usually with myself and the eagerness for all of my cosmos to aline. It is for the grandiose to be achieved. And achieved NOW! Once I have set my sights on something, I must have it. Tolerating the process can be very uncomfortable to me.
Practicing patience- patience with the crying child, patience with our learning curves, and patience with our emotions- will lead us to a greater sense of well-being. It is a lesson in Mindfulness. Reflect on your own areas of impatience. Can you see where impatience may interfere with the quality of your relationships? What about with your own aspirations? I think that when many of us think of someone that we admire, someone with wisdom and leadership, we notice their poise and ability to be patient. They are patient with individuals and patient with the process.
How would practicing this skill decrease stress, tension, and subsequent negative emotions in your life?
Judgement. This might be the #1 obstacle in building healthy relationships with ourselves and with others. We give a value to everything we see, label and categorize it as Good/Bad, Right/Wrong, Moral/Amoral, Black/White. Take a minute. How many issues in your life are causing you distress because of your personal assessment of Good vs Bad or Right vs Wrong? If it is not a fact, it is a judgement, an assessment, or an assumption.
How do we change this so that it doesn’t have a negative impact on having healthy relationships and loving ourselves? Mindfulness. We cannot change any behavior or thought until we are aware of it. Begin taking note of your judgments. Just notice them. Don’t push them away. Don’t follow them down the rabbit hole. Simply identify that that thought was a judgment and potentially causing distress. Don’t judge your judging.
In this moment of practice non-judgement is where we can see the situation as is, without suffering, without a negative meaning. It is here that you can give your own meaning. It is here where you can be your true self and one to admire.