Have you brushed aside mindfulness as something nice but not for you? Hopefully, this post will encourage you to change your mind by debunking some of the myths that are floating around.
1) You have to be mindful all the time
No one is mindful 100 per cent of the time. It wouldn’t be practical, anyway. You have to daydream, plan for the future and do some things on autopilot, because it would be too time-consuming and overwhelming otherwise. A study by the University of Waterloo found that you can experience reduced anxiety and improved ability to focus your attention by practicing mindfulness meditation for just 10 minutes a day. Another study on health care professionals discovered that even 5 minutes a day can be effective in reducing stress.
2) Mindfulness and meditation are the same
Meditation is a formal practice of focusing your attention on breath, movement, mantra or a point of focus of your choice. It’s a great introduction to mindfulness, because keeping a single focus can be much easier than staying present amongst the many distractions of our day-to-day life, but it’s not the only way to be mindful. Mindfulness can be practiced at any time, no matter what we’re doing.
3) Mindfulness is a religious practice
Mindfulness is the process of paying attention without the need to judge or change what is. It’s a way of being and experiencing our lives. It doesn’t require a specific belief system, religious or otherwise. The origins of mindfulness go back thousands of years, and while it has become best known through Buddhism (we won’t go into a discussion whether Buddhism is a religion or not), every spiritual tradition has elements of mindfulness weaved into its practices.
4) There isn’t enough time for mindfulness
As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to carve out special time for mindfulness into your day, but simply approach the things that you’re already doing in a more mindful way. In fact, as you become more present, you may notice that you’re achieving more in less time. When you stop replaying past events and contemplating possible (often very unlikely) outcomes, you become more available to the task at hand.
5) Mindfulness requires an empty mind
You may have tried to let go of all thoughts in meditation and failed. That’s completely normal. No one can keep a mind free of thoughts for long, this is just how the human brain works. When you’re mindful, you don’t suddenly lose all your thoughts. Thoughts still come and go, but you become an observer rather than an active participant. You recognise that what you’re thinking doesn’t define you, and it’s not even necessarily true, and you consciously choose whether to follow a train of thought or let it go.
Tatiana is a freelance writer and a mum of three living in Sydney. After a 10-years’ break, she has just returned to full-time work. She is still finding time for yoga, meditation and mindfulness, which is making a huge difference to her sanity and her enjoyment of life.