Mindful

I have put thousands of hours into mindfulness practice over twenty years. I teach mindfulness. Yet, some days I wake up under-slept, looking like hell, feeling skinless and desperate and maxed-out on every level. On those days, I feel worse than Jeb Bush at a debate.

I want to believe that regular mindfulness practice could make life easier for all of us. But in spite of my sincere efforts, I can still be reactive (ok, verrry reactive), I am not debt-free, and I can’t even find jeans that make my butt look good! Life presents us with obstacles, tragedies, death. How can mindfulness practice combat the injustices of the world when it can’t even prevent water retention? If all my problems haven’t been solved, why am I bothering to practice?

As I tell my students, clients, and anyone who will listen, mindfulness is a way to come out of imprisoning memories from the past, and catastrophic thinking about the future. Sadly for all of us, mindfulness offers no extended warranty against disappointments or terrorism and might not even result in better sex. But the opposite of being mindful is being mindless. The opposite of awareness is committing (by default) to tuning out and living in a daze. Mindfulness offers a way to be present to life in all its gory glory, but what we do with that life is up to us.

For me, the result of all my ongoing practice is that in spite of being continually ruffled and buffeted on the outside, on the inside I feel relatively peaceful.

For me, my willingness to be awake and notice, (as best as I can), has also helped ME be less of a jerk. Awareness that I am not alone on planet earth has helped break me open to compassion, tenderness, and empathy. Mindfulness has helped make me human, not just a blood satchel filled with genetic material … but human.

For me, the result of all my ongoing practice is that in spite of being continually ruffled and buffeted on the outside, on the inside I feel relatively peaceful.

When I am gentle with myself and others, when I stay present, even if it’s uncomfortable to do so, I know that I am in touch with my humanity. Even if I can’t fix everything, I can be open, curious, and willing to participate in life. As Plato said, “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We’ve met everyone, and they are us.

It’s not the best of times, it’s not the worst of times, but it is a perfect time to be tender and open to the whole mess. We are all facing a hard battle to do the counter-intuitive thing—stay present to our lives and each other.

Breathing in, breathing out, we welcome the world exactly as we find it—new in every moment. Now is the opportunity to wake up to our lives, and make every season bright.

Elaine Smookler

Elaine Smookler has been a mindful practitioner for over 20 years and is on the faculty at The Centre for Mindfulness Studies in Toronto. She is a Registered Psychotherapist and teaches mindfulness to corporate clients through eMindful. She's also a comedic writer and performer and is the singing host of Mindful Martinis, a cabaret/mindfulness class mash up.

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