A couple of weeks ago I was delivering a presentation on Mindfulness and Its Benefits to a corporate group. At the end of the presentation, as participants came up to me with thanks and many positive comments, I suddenly realised I’d forgotten an important point in my presentation. And it was too late to mention it.
So here’s what happened next.
Instead of being able to feel the satisfaction of a job well done and fully receive the positive responses that were coming my way, I spent the next few hours ruminating and self-castigating over the missed bit of information. Thoughts ran along the line of: “Oh, damn! I forgot that bit of information. How could I have done that? What kind of mindfulness teacher am I? I should have remembered that… what’s wrong with me?… I’m useless.”
Aside from the opening thought “I forgot that bit of information”, none of the rest was true. However, this is what a mind does. I caught myself in this vicious cycle of self-recrimination and noticed how easily my mind slips into this auto-dot-joining down a rabbit hole of self-criticism. It’s what my mind has learned to do over many many years, assisted by an achievement-obsessed culture that prizes ‘getting it right’.
The art of mindful living lies in accepting, with a dose of kind humility, that screw-ups will happen and this life will always continue to bring these opportunities to learn more about my capacities and responses. The inner critic/tyrant shows up in so many sneaky ways, and I’m sure you have your own unique experiences of this.
Even with years of mindfulness practice under my belt, these thought trains will arise in me regularly. The difference now is that I can see them for what they are, catch them before they gobble me up and send me into despondency and hopelessness. Mindfulness is a competency that builds so many muscles – self-awareness, self-regulation, acceptance and appreciation of this moment, just as it is.
The thing I’ve discovered, too, is that simply thinking “oh yes, I’ll just be more present in my life, less judgemental” seldom shifts the deeper furniture of installed beliefs/reactions/habits of thinking and feeling. A deliberate choice to develop this mindfulness skill involves discipline and stick-to-it-iveness. This is exactly what the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course offers and supports.
The benefits? Well, I definitely can’t guarantee that you’ll never make a mistake again, or that difficult moments won’t come along. What I can say is that your capacity to be more aware of what’s occurring inside – in mind, body, emotions – will pay dividends in more calm, presence, and ability to roll with the ups and downs of life. Wouldn’t that be a great capacity to develop in yourself?
I hope you can join me for the upcoming MBSR I’m running live and online, starting on
Tuesday 12 October and running for eight wonderful weeks until 30 November. This also includes a full day ‘meditation retreat’ which will be held live and in-person at a location in Adelaide, for those who live in this area. For those who don’t, we will have a zoom link set up. It’s a course that changed the course of my life, and I hope it can offer you the same… I look forward to welcoming you into this experience of learning about yourself.
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