Many people these days seem to be recognizing the benefits of mindfulness. Being able to pay attention to yourself and be present in the moment is so important to living a full, vibrant life.
But there is something that I’m discovering that is, for me, slightly disappointing about the pursuit of mindfulness and presence. I’ve found that being mindful of yourself is not enough to be at peace. There is an all-important secondary element to being present in the moment and finding joy and freedom in life.
I may be fully aware of myself, I may be tuned-in to what and how I’m feeling/doing/thinking. I may be present in the moment, connected to the frustrations and joys of the day. But none of that will really translate into a lasting sense of peace unless I’m willing to be vulnerable and honest with others about the things I am becoming mindful of.
This is the unfortunate part for me. I’m all for meditation and contemplative prayer for the sake of being aware of myself and God in the moment. I’m all for journaling to record my emotions and thoughts (both helpful and unhelpful). I’m all for the various tips and tools to become a more centered, mindful person. What I don’t like is sharing that journey with others.
If I had it my way, I would simply call for everyone’s attention after I had achieved some enlightened state of sainthood in which I floated above the ground and answered every question with a question. I prefer to take the same approach to deification as to the making of laws and sausage; don’t look behind the scenes.
My practice of mindfulness and presence is about as rocky and tangled a road as they come, and I don’t want people to see me stumble. I don’t want to share my weaknesses, my struggles, or even my successes. To do any of that would be to betray the fact that I haven’t already figured everything out.
The modern mystic Thomas Keating said that conversion is a series of necessary humiliations to the self. The only way I can experience those necessary humiliations is through honesty, being vulnerable with someone other than myself.
Practicing mindfulness is good. Prayer is necessary. Living in the present moment is the heart of abundant life. But the key that unlocks all of this is honesty. And in the spirit of such honesty, may I say that I think it sucks.
But at least I’m mindful of that, right?
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