We’ve all been sold, and continue to be sold, everyday, a big whopper: that we’re not good enough. That we’re not OK as we are. That we’re falling short and need to work really hard to get to where we should be.
It’s a lie that becomes a lens through which we interpret the world around us so that it is continually reinforced.
- My diet’s not good enough: I shouldn’t be eating carbs/fat/meat/wheat/gluten/dairy/sugar/processed food/MSG/GMO/on Mondays and Wednesdays
- My body’s not good enough: I should have less fat/more muscles/fewer wrinkles/a thigh gap/bigger breasts/penis/less tummy/more flexible/fitter/firmer buttocks
- I’m not doing well enough in my career: I should be earning more/be better at what I do/be more productive/creating a 5 year plan/finding my passion/setting up a business/going freelance
- I shouldn’t be feeling like this: I should be more confident/less anxious/less stressed/able to sleep/more relaxed/less tense/have more energy
- I need better stuff: a nicer flat/my own house/newer phone/better clothes/more soft furnishings/a juicer/blender/dehydrator/smoothie/bread/sandwich maker
- A relationship: why am I single? There must be something wrong with me
- A better relationship: more/less time together/more dates/better sex/more effort/honesty/quality time/affection/why can’t they just be different?!?/I should be married/have kids
- I should have more money: I spend too much/don’t earn enough/I’m not worth being paid more
- Better free time: learning tango/salsa/swing/doing pilates/yoga/more parties/fewer parties/early nights/more time with friends/going to the theatre/having more instagramable moments!
Constantly seeking to improve our lives in all areas does have benefits: it might drive us to be healthier, to be more ambitious, to learn more and so on. But to constantly feel that you’re falling short is not conducive to happiness and it is exhausting.
Mindfulness helps you to counter all of that with the radical notion that you are in fact fine as you are. Right now. There is nothing about you that needs to be different. To really accept that idea takes a lot of practice though, because we’ve all received so much conditioning in the opposite direction.
One of the first things most people struggle with when they sit down to meditate, is the idea that their mind shouldn’t be as it is. It should be empty. It should do what it’s told. I should be able to concentrate.
They notice tension or restlessness in the body, and want to get rid of it. It’s like being at war with yourself, and it creates more tension, agitation and impatience.
This mindset can be gradually reprogrammed by intentionally choosing to have a curious, open and accepting attitude towards whatever you’re experiencing: “Ah, a busy mind.” “Ah, tension in my shoulder.” “Ah, my to-do list.”
And the more you develop this non-judgmental attitude towards your experience, the more your mind and body relax, and the calmer and more content you feel. And the less judgmental your become towards yourself, the less you tend to judge others.
So one way to think of meditation is self-acceptance training. It’s about learning to let go of that incessant inner critic and replace it with a cheerleader. Doesn’t that sound like a more enjoyable way to live?
There’s a Chinese proverb: “Tension is who you think you should be, relaxation is who you are.”
It’s simple, but not easy. It takes practice!
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