We can get trapped into thinking positive thinking is mindfulness.
It is not. It is just more thinking.
A type of thinking that can be useful, supportive and empowering.
Yet like Jon Kabat Zinn reminds us, it can also be “confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusionary, self-serving and wrong”, if we become imprisoned by it.
It can be just more analysing, more assessing, more of wanting to escape from what is emerging, particularly if what is emerging is unpleasant, uncomfortable…
Mindfulness on the other hand goes beyond or behind our thinking. It is an awareness that is more expansive. It is the vantage point in a cave or depression in the rock behind a waterfall. “We still see and hear the water, but we are out of the torrent”.
In meditating, we can practice observing our sensations with awareness and equanimity, neither seeking to change them but just accepting them as they rise and fall. Thoughts can come and go, like having the radio on in another room. It can just be noise in the background. Where you do not have to pay attention to it or getting wrapped up in it.
Off the cushion, I see how this practice is beautifully exhibited in how my sister and brother-in-law are raising my niece and nephew. When the children cry to release all that tension built up over the day, they don’t default to ‘jollying’ or distracting them, moving them to be ‘positive’, ‘smiley’, to suppress it or ‘stop’. They just hold them in unconditional acceptance. And let them be with their emotions they are experiencing in the moment.
Simple. But not easy.
- Kabat-Zinn, J (1994) Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life, Hyperion, New York, pp 93-95
- Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash