‘Spiritual’ people often think that negative states of mind are a problem, that hate must be turned into love, frustration into joy. This is valiant but misguided. Reality is sometimes so simple that we just miss it. Anger, frustration and regret are appropriate responses to many situations. Indulging in them doesn’t help and neither does flight, but taking a step back and seeing them in context does. Resist the urge to escape and you see what you’re really dealing with.
Are you searching for tranquility, or for a tranquillizer? Sharp, effective mindfulness begins with acceptance of your emotions, not judgement of them. Only then is change possible.
Those who want to feel good now miss this subtle difference. Their desire to change their feelings is the same old urge to flee, just another subconscious craving for things to be other than they are. Actually, it’s worse: believing they’re on a special path to freedom, they’re even more blinkered than the rest of us.
We can’t control our feelings but we can mold our thoughts. We do that most easily in patterns of past and future, and that’s why our heads fill up so easily with distraction.
So, mindfulness is not an isolated activity in a quiet room. It’s a fully-engaged approach to life. It deals with what we know, not what we wish; with what is presented to us in each and any moment. It’s not easy, but it is profoundly rewarding.
If you take up mindfulness in order to find peace, that’s probably what it’ll seem like — at first. However, that’s just a trick of the expectant mind. Getting past that illusion is stressful: you have to face stuff you don’t want to face. The fact that it feels bad doesn’t mean you’ve got it wrong. It means you’re stepping out of your comfort zone, bypassing your default responses and adding space for creative experience.