We can think of mindfulness as a practice that brings only calm, happiness and joy. The reality of it, however, can be quite different. Whilst mindfulness does bring a sense of wellbeing to those practicing it, few mention the dark side of mindfulness.
I am halfway through an MBSR course to deepen my experience of mindfulness and to engage with a community, to date having largely practiced mindfulness alone. The structure of the course has helped me to be more disciplined and to practice more formally, which is just as important as my ‘on-the-move’ practice, which I take with me everywhere I go.
These past ten years of increasing mindfulness practice has taught me something very important. The thought has been ever clearer as I recently strove to incorporate mindfulness even more into my life. Mindfulness is hard. Mindfulness can be gritty. You have to be brave, accepting and non-judgmental of your most awful, sad and/or angry thoughts and feelings. Contrary to the stereotype of sitting in a beautiful landscape, meditating and chanting, mindfulness and meditation can be so powerful that you can cry or shake with the feelings that you’re so full of.
Mindfulness and meditation strips things bare. You have nothing to hide behind. No excuses to make. You realise the layers of stress and suffering we place on ourselves beyond our initial ‘bad’ experiences. You realise how your perceptions of situations colour them and perhaps change their intention or meaning. You realise the amount of lies you inadvertently tell yourself in a day due to your preferences and ideas of what is ‘right and wrong’, ‘good and bad’.
Sometimes the truth doesn’t feel very good. Mindfulness is a way to find the truth – the core of what is, without judgment. Sometimes that truth may terrify us and at other times we may feel at ease and calm.
One thing we can be certain of is that even if mindfulness can seem dark sometimes, it helps us to clear away the drama we create with our thoughts, leading to a simpler and more truthful way of life.