'MYTH 4: MINDFULNESS IS TIME CONSUMING’
I think this comes from the idea that mindfulness is something we have to set aside time for. That mindfulness is only ever a formal practice done apart from others and daily life.♀️ I'll discuss the role of formal practice more in future posts. In reality, mindfulness is not a separate activity, it's a state of mind - curious nonjudgmental attention to the present.
In other words, it requires no time aside from the one unit of time we always have available: the present moment. It requires only fully inhabiting that moment!
So we can bring a mindfulness practice to any activity. We can mindfully eat, by savouring the taste and texture of what we eat.
• In conversation, we can mindfully listen, focussing our attention fully on the person we are conversing with.
• We can mindfully walk, bringing our awareness to the sensation of the air on our face or the ground on our feet.
• If we are working a desk job, we can focus our awareness on sitting, or emailing, or whatever else it is we do. And so on…
Not only is mindfulness not time-consuming, it is time-creating! By focussing our attention, our brain waves shift to a slower rhythm which expands our experience of time. And as we become more accustomed to focussing only on what is in front of us, we begin to save the time we otherwise lose to mental wandering.
So, if we have a body and breath, we are ready. We don't need to wait until we have time in our life to practice: our lives are our practice!
If mindfulness involved sitting for long periods in the lotus position, it would rule a lot of us out - me included!
Luckily, we don’t need to sit in the lotus posture, or even sit at all.
'MYTH 5: MINDFULNESS MEANS SITTING CROSS-LEGGED’
As I explained in my last post, there is a difference between the informal practice of mindfulness (bringing mindfulness to our daily activities) and a formal practice of mindfulness. In our informal practice of mindfulness, there are no posture requirements at all. We just bring our attention to whatever we are doing: eating, driving, working, conversing.
In a formal practice of mindfulness, we stop doing other things so we can focus solely on bringing our attention to the present moment, experienced through something which is always available to us, such as the breath or bodily sensations.
The reason for doing this is that mindfulness is hard! Our minds are restless. Our attention spans are short. We are habituated to being easily distracted. Even with the best intentions, our awareness doesn't stay where we place it for long!
So one of the purposes of formal practice is to give ourselves the best possible shot by eliminating as many distractions as we can. We go somewhere quiet to minimise the distractions of sounds. We try and be still, to minimise the distractions of movement. We close or half-close our eyes to minimise visual distractions.
And we also try and adopt a posture that is comfortable and not distracting. The only guidance I give my students is this: whatever posture you choose, make sure your back is straight, and it is a posture that inspires dignity and attentiveness.
• You can sit cross-legged on a cushion.
• You can sit in a chair.
• You can lie down.
• You can stand up straight.
And of course, you can alternate postures too if you experience discomfort or pain. Mindfulness is not masochistic. It's not an endurance test. It should be a physically comfortable experience: the mental challenge is enough! So if sitting cross legged is comfortable for you, great! If not, feel free to pull up a chair next to mine!