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Mindfulness Isn't a Competition

Person meditating with title: 6 tips to meditate better

This was a social media post with a name on it but I left that name off the image because I don't want to pile on the person who posted it.

The first tip for meditating better was to "observe your thoughts, without judgment." I found this symptomatic of what's wrong with some attitudes toward mindfulness.

The Word "Better" Screams Competition

How have we gotten to a place where you need to be "better" at doing something centered on non-judgment? It's not a competition . . . with anyone. Do you see the irony? The contradiction?

There's nothing wrong with you. If you're having a difficult time establishing or maintaining a formal sitting practice that's because . . . you're human. It's not because you need to meditate better.

In a way, it IS our nature to be captivated by something and concentrate on it. If you have or work with children, you might catch them focused on a daffodil, a bunny, or the glue on their hands. We're all good at putting our attention on something. One might argue that rumination is excessive attention on a thought. Focus isn't really the issue.

Intentional Attention is the Issue

Our attention wanders constantly, and wonderful things can come of that wandering. Wondering, imagination, creating . . . all of that happens when we're not attending or intending. It's our default mode network doing its natural thing, generating images, thoughts, and scenarios.

Intentional attention, however, isn't easy. It is the ability to pay attention to what you want to pay attention to, for the amount of time you want to be paying attention to it. That's concentration, and it doesn't come without practice.

Stop Judging Your Mind

Just do it. Just sit or stand and start doing two minutes of practice each day and work your way up from there.

Or not.

Maybe you're at two minutes forever.

Don't judge the contents of what comes up or anything about your experience.




Practice is in the Service of Changing Your Brain's Predictions

A little-talked-about reality is that your formal practice ISN'T the point. Your two minutes of whatever type of practice is in the service of creating a brain that pays attention. Your practice is in the service of changing your brain into a brain that does things differently. It knows how to pay attention, it knows how to regulate the nervous system, and it knows what to say when things are going sideways. It knows because it's been practicing when the stakes are low. It's slowly been evolving into a brain that can skillfully meet whatever arises, with equanimity.

Your two minutes of practice are in the service of the other 1,438 minutes of the day.

So, please, go here and do a guided meditation of any length, right now. And don't judge what happens. Just follow the instructions as best you can, this time. Next time might be different. And that's okay.

May ease find you.



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