For a long time, I thought mindfulness was trying to squeeze the most out of each experience.
It was somewhere around 5 years ago that I first became deeply interested in the power of mindfulness. I was midway through high school and my life was not where I wanted it to be. Somehow, I managed to stumble upon self-help articles and I discovered the process of meditation.
For the following few months, I would practice meditation 3 to 4 times a week. It was the first time, I became consciously aware of many of the thoughts I was carrying throughout my day and it allowed me to be much happier.
These months led me to develop a deep curiosity about what was possible. I tried to create new opportunities and make improvements in my life. I owe so much to the advancements I made during this time, but I realize I developed a few misconceptions as well. One of the misconceptions I have started to understand over the past year is my desire to somehow make experiences more than they are.
Mindfulness is Appreciating What Is
One of the biggest benefits of meditation is the power to be more aware of the things going on in your life. Throughout your life, your brain is creating a series of thoughts that you often act upon. Without a little training, it is easy to become completely unaware of these thoughts. That is a huge disadvantage.
If you do not have an understanding of some of the main thoughts you carry through your day, it is hard to understand who you are as a person and what actions have an emotional impact on you. It can be more difficult to define your values, be consciously aware of how you are feeling, and be content with the things in your life.
Unfortunately, being more mindful is not a magic pill. With enough practice, being more mindful can make your baseline happiness a little higher and may cut out some of the lows you experience. In my experience, there has not been a real noticeable change in the highs of life. It is hard to make your happiest moments even happier.
I Tried to Force Happiness Through Mindfulness
I now realize that I spent much of the past 5 years trying to make myself happier through mindfulness. I tried to use this presence as a way to live every moment at the highest of highs. It didn’t work very well. Being mindful can make you happier as a by-product.
The mistake I sometimes made was trying to force myself to be happier by being more mindful. I tried to force a different emotion upon myself. This mistake deterred my presence because I was always comparing myself to how happy I had been before. A contradiction to the very idea of mindfulness.
Being Mindful Is Challenging
Perhaps the most difficult part of trying to be more mindful is that the practice is the reward. Being more aware of yourself at this moment is the reward.
It means focusing on the food you’re eating and appreciating the taste, but also knowing you cannot magically make your taste buds like it more. It means using all your focus to listen to friends when they talk but also knowing they are not required to like you more as a result.
Being more aware in life means understanding that you get to change the world in certain ways, but the world will also try to change you in its own ways.
Being mindful also means being aware of the sadness you may be feeling, the difficult thoughts that arise each day, and the contradictions within your beliefs. Your reward for being present is knowing these things so that you can attempt to improve them. It means acknowledging the darkness you see within yourself and accepting its existence and your ability to make slight alterations to its existence.
You are one person in a world of over 7 billion people. Each of us desires to leave a legacy behind. Sometimes you will get what you want and sometimes you will not. Yet, you have the power, just like the rest of us, to continue the pursuit of what you want in hopes that you might one day get there. Being mindful means finding this line between the things that you can positively change and the challenges that are not worth spending your time on.
Mindfulness can be a very powerful tool to have in your life, but it is also important to realize that it grows slowly and the benefits may not be as readily apparent as you would like. I often tried to force these benefits and it ended up being a distraction more than anything else.