Why should you practice mindfulness? Why are you practicing mindfulness?
As a coach, mindfulness practitioner and mindfulness teacher, I find I run into variations of these questions on a daily basis.
It’s easy to cite statistics and personal stories. I can relate details about how mindfulness can help us better understand and respond to stress, cultivate deeper comfort with our emotions and physical sensations and develop resiliency in the face of set-backs.
All of those reasons are valid and yet I forget that sometimes they’re not the most important reminders. So what is? Why should you practice mindfulness?
You are whole.
In a recent mindfulness meditation retreat, our teacher offered a simple reflection and a reminder that really stuck with me. It’s a reflection on the “why” of mindfulness. It connects with what I believe to be the best gift of learning to find a home inside the experiences of your mind, heart and body.
He asked us if our practice was centered in learning to connect to our inherent wholeness, as we are or a self-improvement project to “get better” at life’s experiences. Later in the retreat, our other teacher touched on this as well. In response to a question, she pointed out that sometimes we attend retreats to use our practice of “being” to help us figure out our “doing.” We have an agenda and this mindfulness thing better help us achieve it!
The paradox of non-doing.
This idea touches on what is definitely one of the biggest paradoxes of mindfulness practice. It’s hard to explain to people that something is worthwhile in and of itself, even if you have goals, but that trying to get somewhere, to reach a particular outcome with your practice is not quite the purpose. I think that’s why the reflection of coming home to our inherent wholeness is such a powerful reminder.
You are not an irreparably flawed person who needs mindfulness to see your way out of your issues. You’re a whole person, complete with every trait you need, for whom mindfulness provides important reminders of the wellness of your being. When you pay attention to your breath, you know you are alive. When you feel the physical sensations of your body, you know you are being. When you connect with your thoughts and emotions, you see your humanness.
It is your wholeness, your wellness, that then guides you. If you’re not paying attention to it, it’s still there, you simply aren’t accessing what these experiences can offer. You’re reminded, therefore, that mindfulness is not just a practice, an outside “trick” you wrap up in to protect you from the storm. It’s alive inside you – like a torch you shine to find your way.
The irony of my work is that people often seek out my support as a coach in order to figure out how to get through hard things. The gift of working with my clients is reminding them that they’re already whole – just in need of more space, more attention, to see it. Sure, I help them align that attention with intention – but they really do have all they need.
What questions should you be asking, instead?
Therefore, the question is really less – Why should I practice mindfulness? – and more “How do I create space to connect to my wholeness?” Is mindfulness practice perhaps one way to do that?
I wonder what’s alive inside of you. If you were to pause, to pay attention to what you find in your breath, your body, your mind – what new insights would guide you? How would you see that you are, indeed, already whole?