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Missing the Point: When Mindfulness Becomes Another Box to Check

Last month, I walked a labyrinth, a circular path for walking meditation where your journey to the center helps you encounter “self”. As I made my way through the labyrinth, I reflected upon a troubling pattern within my mindfulness practices. Often, I take my stories of not being good enough and needing to prove my value, and I let this stress and perfectionism be the main driver in my pursuit of being. Instead of using mindfulness as a tool to unlearn these old patterns, I create a frenzy of activity and over-efforting around “mindfulness” itself.

I walked the labyrinth’s path and committed to a new way: one of accepting where I am in the moment without needing to prove it, perfect it, or be better at it. Surprisingly, I came upon the midpoint of the path and realized I’d entered backwards. I’d walked just a few minutes into the “exit” and was already at the center.

My mind went into over-drive. I hadn’t been walking long enough. I wasn’t ready to encounter the center. Should I walk out the exit and start over? If I did, could I step over the spirals or did I need to retrace my steps from the way that I came?

Suddenly, I was hit with the absolute irony of the assumptions beneath this response: even as I meditated on being, I held a self-belief that said I should have to work harder for it.

I burst into laughter. In the humor of my growing awareness, I released all the garbage I normally level against myself and I just was: in a moment of contradiction, without guilt or a need to get it “right”.

I share this story for those of you who might recognize yourself in it. For those of you whose interest in mindfulness is another to-do which you shame yourself for not getting to often enough. For those of you who catch yourself with clenched fists on your steering wheel, handlebars, or wheelchair from the mounting pressure you’ve piled on yourself— and those whose fists are often clenched, though you don’t usually realize it.

If you are rushing around this world proving you’re good enough even in your intended self-care practices, I invite you to acknowledge this pattern without guilt and an additional inner-critique. Instead, can you laugh? Can you be with yourself, without haste or judgment, in this moment of unrealized enlightenment? I invite you to be patient with and present to your process.

I invite you, as I’ve invited myself, to begin to believe that you are doing the best you can. And that that is good enough. Let’s use our meditation, our breath work, our asana classes— whatever practices fit you today— to generate kindness. Discipline and commitment have a role, but only once we’ve unlearned our endless efforting.

First, let’s learn to be here, now. To find our center, even when (especially when) we think the walk to it was supposed to take longer than it did.

Follow Stacey @staceystravels.

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#mindfulness #weeklywisdom #reflection #awareness #reflectivepractices #leadinsideout

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