dangers and limitations of mindfulness

This is an extract from a my upcoming introductory short ebook on applying Buddhist Practice to daily life

Whatever your feeling now, whatever your opinion of yourself and others mindfulness can, at first, exaggerate it. Paying intense attention to what is going on for you will mean increased awareness of it all – positive and negative.

But over time, and usually a short time, if you’re honest with yourself in the effort you make, your perception of yourself will become more realistic, balanced. You will over time come to realise you can rely on that old cliché “this too will pass” – not only for all bad situations and feelings but also for the good ones too. You will come to know yourself in a different way, you will have feelings not be them. Our language makes it hard; we say – “I AM sad” or “I AM happy” so you are defined by your feelings, rather than “I have or do sad” or “I have or do happy”. I know the grammar is all wrong but that’s the point.

At first there can be a sense of passivity where the feelings are more intense and can be overwhelming and you can feel out of control, like they are happening to you. But if you continue to bravely give attention you will see that change is always happening. Change in your body which you notice in the simple movement of sensations. Even paying attention changes the sensations. Then there is your continuously changing your emotions and thoughts. These are expressed and caused by your internal dialogue as it happens in discrete words which have different levels of loudness, tones and qualities, and as pictures, which are colour or black and white, have an angle of view, a size relationship with you. Then you notice that feelings are in different parts of your body, have different temperatures, pressures and the pain and pleasure change in intensity with different situations and with different way you think about them. Even your sense of strength, shape and size is continuously changing as you relate your surroundings, other people and even your thoughts and feelings.

The result is that you move first from experiences and life happening to you, to you being the experience, to you having the experience, to you doing the experiences and life, meaning from the passive to the active and finally to the interactive.

It takes time, and this can be frustrating. You will always be yourself, which can be even more frustrating. It is that your relationship with you will change. It may go from you being a painful battleground based on shame and hatred, to you only feeling discomfort with yourself, to tolerance and respect, to romantic love (meaning exaggerated and overblown positivity ignoring the flaws), to a real love, embracing all of who you are even the bits you don’t like. This could be imagined as the love of a good parent for a wayward child who knows them clearly, is honest about their qualities, accepts and tolerates the difficult parts of them without it affecting the love.

Another image the helps with perspective and the processes you’ll go through has a great and long tradition going back through the East and Middle East, including Christianity and Islam. The metaphor and reality of the master tradesman versus the apprentice. For a new apprentice every mistake is a catastrophe, a major threat to their sense of self and skill, their position in the job. Every achievement is a boost to the ego, a big emotional response, a source of ecstasy. For the master tradesman a mistake is something you fix and move on after a breath, you might learn something useful. An achievement is a nice moment, also worthy of a breath of appreciation, but you also then move on.

References:

ABCRN Life Matter – Darkside of Mindfulness