Mindfulness is Breaking With Routine


Why meditate?

Why practice mindfulness?

If you are a religious Buddhist or Hindu, perhaps these questions need no answers.

Otherwise, for those of us who do not happen to be part of an Eastern religious tradition, and who encounter recommendations to meditate, articles on and references to the benefits of mindfulness practice in press and media, face this question to varying extents: Why engage in this seemingly bizarre behavior of meditation or mindfulness practice?

We may hear repeatedly that meditation will lead to some sort of increased peace or happiness.  However, we have not coherent rationale at our disposal as to why that would be, other than a kind of faith that most of us simply do not have.  We might make a feeble effort, feel overwhelmed by boredom or swamped with thoughts, and then conclude that meditation is not for us.

For those who need a concrete, coherent rationale in order to justify really giving meditation a solid, “college” try, I offer you one as follows.

Meditation is nothing more than the practice of mindfulness.  Mindfulness is exactly the opposite of mindlessness: Mindfulness is turning off our “automatic pilot” mode of doing things, and paying attention, as fully as possible, to what is here, now, in this moment.

Paying attention in this moment breaks the links between our behaviors, or at least weakens them.

Read that sentence again.  Wait, better yet, I will type it again.  I won’t even use cut-and-paste, I promise.

Paying attention in this moment breaks the links between our behaviors, or at least weakens them.

Why would we want that?

Because most of us struggle, to some degree, with automatic behaviors that are not in our best interest.  Most of us engage in behaviors, subtle as well as overt, that are at cross-purposes to our own values system.

Procrastination, over-eating, compulsive behaviors, “numbing out,” cutting ourselves off from communication with significant others (sometimes in subtle ways) would all be potential examples of automatic behaviors that are at cross-purposes with our own values.

By breaking with the routines that our bodies and minds habitually in, we learn how to be flexible in times and places where we used to be rigid.  We learn how to act differently from what our first inclination dictates (or even our second, third, or fourth inclinations dictate!)  We can refrain from destructive, compulsive behaviors.  We can begin or enhance activities that further our valued ends and goals, that enrich rather than impoverish our lives.

By sitting quietly, not moving, and paying attention to the breath, we challenge, in a rather vigorous way, the automaticity of our minds.  By not falling for the mind’s attempts to derail our meditation (“gee, this is stupid, maybe I’ll just get up and go have a snack”), by repeatedly resisting the impulses to move or to stop meditating before the bell rings, we weaken the links between thought and more thoughts, between thoughts and actions, between actions and more actions.  We slow down.  We re-establish our flexibility and our ability to choose our actions based on our values, not based on whatever-our-minds-dictate.

By practicing mindfulness, we can experience and live true freedom.


1 Comment

Filed under Meditation

One response to “Mindfulness is Breaking With Routine

  1. Pingback: Shattering: Why Mindfulness Meditation Can Be Frightening | Portland Mindfulness Therapy

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