Monday, August 26, 2013

Positive thinking is not mindfulness

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”.  

Being on the meditation cushion for 10 days at a retreat was about observing my sensations with awareness and equanimity, neither seeking to change them but just to accept what arose and fell.  Thoughts came and went, were to be ignored, like having the radio on in another room; the noise is in the background but we are not paying attention to it or getting wrapped up in it.

Returning to family in Palma de Mallorca, I see this practice beautifully exhibited in how my  sister and brother-in-law are raising my nephew: when he cries to release all that tension built up over the day, they don’t default to ‘jollying’ or distracting him, moving him to be ‘positive’, ‘smiley’, to suppress or even to ‘stop’. They just hold him in unconditional acceptance.  And let him be with the emotions he is experiencing in the moment.

Simple. But not easy.  


Image: A new Zealand waterfall...accessed from google...
Kabat-Zinn, J (1994) Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life, Hyperion, New York, pp 93-95

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