We live in a world that is moving faster than ever. Even routine,non-urgent events feel rushed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about efficiency, especially in emergencies, but do we need to treat everything as a crisis? Our culture of striving, in which time is money, and faster is better, sets us up to risk so much. That risk shows up in patient safety as well as in our own emotional, mental and physical health. We often lose contact with what is right in front of us, the connection to ourselves and others.
When we replace efficiency, productivity, and striving with self-compassion, we shift our way or relating to ourselves from the critical judge to one of kindness. When we cultivate qualities of compassion for ourselves, it naturally ripples out to our relationship with others. For example, we may have more patience for an anxious patient, we may be more receptive during a difficult conversation with a co-worker or become more mindful of how busyness is impacting the children in our life.
We are oriented to do something for a purpose, to achieve a goal. This approach is not helpful in meditation. Mindfulness is a non-doing exercise for the human being rather than the human doing. Meditating with an intention to accept the body and mind where it is in the moment is the only “goal” to take on. If we go into our meditation to be really focused and not get lost in thoughts, we set ourselves up to fail. Thoughts will always show up - I promise. When we show up without agenda or a sense of striving, we can see and accept ourselves as we are and know that we are OK. We are OK even with a mind full of thoughts, a body that is sleepy, or a head full of fantasy and desire.
Wishing things to be other than they are can show up as boredom, fear, pain or restlessness. You don’t have to push any of that away. Let’s take boredom for example. Allow boredom to become what you are aware of. Get curious about the boredom showing up in the present moment. Say hello to boredom, get to know it and let boredom become your mindfulness practice for a little while.
Ask yourself what’s not good enough about this moment? What is so intolerable that I can’t be with the present moment? When you remember you don’t need to get anywhere, you can begin to accept the moment as it is. You can take each moment as it comes and accept it as it is, seeing it fully and completely, then let it go.
When we are focused on striving, we miss the joy and wonder of what can be revealed. If we can give the same attention to going nowhere that we give to going somewhere, we may discover that wonder. So, today give yourself permission to not strive. If you hear that little critical voice show up to remind you that you should be doing something. Remember this: Don’t should on yourself.