I Suck at Mindfulness

I thought I would try writing a few blog posts about my personal struggle with trying to live according to spiritual ideals in everyday life. This struggle is a big part of my life, but is something I don’t talk about much because it doesn’t tend to come up in most everyday conversation. Perhaps there are one or two of you out there who may relate or have some ideas or insights to share. Then again, perhaps not. I guess we’ll see about that.

The following is a quote from the Bahá’í Writings that has always been, in my mind, one of the most pithy and fundamental pieces of the Writings. I used to be inspired by it. Now, I am just challenged by it and sometimes feel sad that I don’t have the same kind of inspiration I had in my early 20s when I became a Bahá’í. Hopefully my youthful idealism has been exchanged for a bit of wisdom. Anyway, here’s the passage:

The true seeker hunteth naught but the object of his quest, and the lover hath no desire save union with his beloved. Nor shall the seeker reach his goal unless he sacrifice all things. That is, whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood, all must he set at naught, that he may enter the realm of the spirit, which is the City of God. Labor is needed, if we are to seek Him; ardor is needed, if we are to drink of the honey of reunion with Him; and if we taste of this cup, we shall cast away the world.

One could write a sizeable book on just this passage because there’s so much to it. I’m not going to attempt to expound upon the full meaning of it, but just share one part of this it has been on my mind lately:

whatever he hath seen, and heard, and understood, all must he set at naught…

This one is huge for me. One of the pitfalls I often come across when trying to meditate is that I get engrossed in my analytical thoughts. I have a thousand explanations for all of the difficult thoughts and feelings that arise in my head when I clear away all outside distractions. I have spent a lot of time picking apart my own thoughts, reviewing in detail difficult periods of my past, writing poems to process painful memories and experiences, and lots of other stuff like that. Doing all of these things has been beneficial and therapeutic for me, but at the same time I can get stuck on some of these old thoughts

So when I have some inner turmoil arise as I’m sitting there attempting to pray or meditate, I instantly have some explanation as to why I’m feeling that way. Then, in my head, I go off on some long tangent that often has nothing to do with what’s really going on in the present moment. The more I look closely at my thoughts and feelings, the more I realize that, in reality, I have no idea why I think and feel the way I do. The mind is way too complex to truly understand and I trap myself with this rambling pseudo self psychoanalysis.

Over and over again, I have to let go of all this excess baggage, all of these thoughts that in the end, aren’t really true. While there may be some truth to the fact that, for example, my mother’s death when I was 12 had a big impact on how I turned out as a person, any specific conclusion I come to about how it affects me now is an oversimplification. I can’t go around telling myself some story about how I’m broken inside because this and other difficult things happened to me in my youth. Well, I could, but 1) it would not be accurate and 2) I would be stuck in a state of learned helplessness.

Basically my mind and soul are far too profound and complex for me to understand. It’s better to let go and clear my head of all of these analytical thoughts that cloud my reality. Just like if you watch a beautiful sunset, it would ruin the experience if you tried to give a detailed, analytical commentary on the visual aspects of the sunset and their possible meanings. It would be better just to shut up and take it all in.

This, of course, is the most basic idea behind mindfulness meditation. Nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment. I don’t know how many books and podcasts I’ve read or listened to on the topic over the past 15 years or so, but I still suck at it. I went to a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat. I give Buddhist books to people to encourage them to meditate. I organized a meditation group while I was in PT school. Yet I still totally suck at meditation. But it’s okay, I guess. Just have to go back to that nonjudgmental part and come back to the breath.

Okay, there’s a lot more I could write on this topic, but I would not to belabor any of my readers (if there are any) and I need to get to bed. Maybe I’ll continue another day. If you are reading this, I wish you peace and happiness, and I appreciate you taking the time. May all beings be happy and free from suffering.