On the Pain of Mindfulness




I'll be leading a mindfulness session next week at the start of the Financial Therapy Association's Annual Conference. The practice we'll be doing is primarily about self-care, which obviously is crucial for all of us, and it just so happens that financial-advisor burnout has been in the news for at least the past year (here's a recent article from late September).


It's probably fair to say that it's been a rough 18 months for almost everyone. If there could ever be said to be an upside to all of this, it's that self-care has been having its moment in the spotlight. We now appear to realize how important it is, how important a formal self-care plan is, and that we all should be prioritizing our mental, emotional, financial, and physical well-being. (Note that sometimes financial well-being is at odds with the rest of the mix, as money can easily be the reason for staying in a job that is otherwise soul-crushing or even toxic. On the other hand, sometimes there's a realization that no amount of money is worth having your soul crushed or being mistreated. This is a topic I'll get to likely next week, in another post about psychological safety.)


Research-Backed Self-Care Practices

I offer classes in self-care that are rooted in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as well the research in well-being that has exploded over the past decade. By now, it's likely you've heard about the benefits of gratitude, self-compassion, kindness, and savoring, in addition to the power of sleep and good sleep hygiene. You've probably seen mindfulness on self-care lists because it "decreases stress" and anxiety, and improves attention and emotion regulation. My upcoming book includes these and more—my top 10, evidence-based practices and tips for improving well-being.


The Tip of the Iceberg

Absent from most conversations about self-care seems to be the reality that mindfulness is difficult and painful. I suppose it's not exactly helpful for marketing purposes, but the truth is that when you allow yourself to be with the consequences of your choices, it's no day at the beach.


On a recent call with MBSR teachers, the program's creator, Jon Kabat-Zinn, was talking about the short meditations many teachers offer. A few minutes. Ten minutes. I offer some of the 10-minute variety. However, there's nothing like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, and its daily 45-minute practice. Jon said something like, 10 minutes isn't enough to get to the suffering. Let that sink in.


If you take away anything from this post or from my classes, let it be this: Touching your own suffering is the most important part of mindfulness practice. It's what creates the conditions for empathy and the compassion that springs from it. It shows you the path to healing. Mindfulness shouldn't be easy, and it's not about pivoting to the positive or reframing your experience, although both can absolutely be helpful at certain moments.


If you're uncomfortable when you practice, you're doing it right.


If you're interested in free, weekly, 30-minute drop-ins, which will be on Wednesdays at 10am, ET (UTC -04.00), by Zoom, at least until the end of the year, sign up! And of course, I welcome you for pay-what-you-can MBSR and Mindfulness for Financial Advisors, both of which begin January 5, meet for 8 weeks, and include a retreat.


Have a peaceful day.

mm