Making mindfulness work: short term results versus long term commitment
There has been a lot of publicity around mindfulness, with its benefits being extolled in every media outlet imaginable and everyone claiming a piece of this practice which owes its origins to ancient Eastern faiths.
It seems that mindfulness is being seen as the ultimate panacea to solve all our ills and while there is absolutely no doubt of the beautiful, powerful benefits it can have, the truth is that it takes time and effort to make mindfulness work for you.
When something gains in popularity, often its fundamental message can become diluted and my worry is that this could be dangerous for how mindfulness is ultimately seen. This practice has in fact been around for hundreds of years but was brought to mainstream attention by American professor Jon Kabat-Zinn with his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction System.
But what people fail to understand, often, is that just learning the basics takes 18 weeks and after that continual practice is required. In fact, mindfulness in its pure form is referred to as a “practice”. My definition for that is that it is something that happens every day, no matter what, and is practised without expectation of a given result.
Unfortunately, many practitioners are selling mindfulness as something that can be a speedy shortcut to a stress-free existence. If that is your objective, you will almost certainly fail with mindfulness and any other form of meditation.
Focus on the long term
If you really wish to explore the practice of mindfulness, or any other type of meditation, I would recommend seeking a practitioner who is not promoting short-term results but one who is seeking to educate and support you in your goal to become more mindful.
Also, do bear in mind that to become truly mindful may require lifestyle adjustments that could be quite radical. These could include dietary changes – giving up alcohol for example – or changes to your timetable and working life that will allow you to take the time you need to focus your mind. All those quick meals snatched on the run at odd times may become a thing of the past and you will need to carefully consider whether mindfulness is really something you want to practise before you embark on finding a tutor to guide you.
All this is not to put you off – mindfulness is a truly incredible practice when done properly. But the key is not to skip the practice in the hope of short-term gain, it just won’t work!