Some time ago I worked through a self-study course on Mindfulness. When doing so I often practiced a guided body scan meditation. Near the beginning of the meditation the guide said this.
Remind yourself that we’re not trying to get anywhere or striving to achieve any special state. The intention here is to spend time with each region of the body in turn cultivating awareness of what’s already here. So we’re not looking for anything special to happen but allowing for things to be just as we find them. So letting go of the tendency to want things to be a certain way or to judge how you’re doing, simply following along with the instructions as best you can, and whenever the mind wanders away, as it will tend to do, bringing it back without giving yourself a hard time.
I don’t know how many times I heard this. I understood and followed the instructions during the exercise. But for some reason I never made the connection between practice and life. Let me explain.
A Disconnect Between Practice and Experience
I have several projects or areas of life that I’m working on. For each one I have a vision, a state that I’m trying to achieve, a goal, if you will. From the goal I work backward and create work plans or tasks that need to be accomplished to reach the desired state.
For example, I have an idea of what I’d like the Godminders site to be like. I know what needs to be done to get it there. Because of this, I’m not content with it in its present state. It’s not what I want it to be. Consequently even while I work on it, I’m not enjoying it. I’m unsatisfied. Worse still, because my vision is always expanding, I never “arrive” at the desired state. We accomplished great things on that site, but I never allowed it to be what it was or what it was becoming. I was always unsatisfied and wanted it to be something it wasn’t. Imagine having seven different major projects like that in your life. You’re making progress but never getting anywhere and you’re quietly discontent with each of them because they are never in the state you envision. That’s not a very fun life!
A Mindful Revelation
Today, out of the blue while I was working on a task for one of these projects, the voice from the body scan meditation came to mind. “Remind yourself that we’re not trying to get anywhere . . .” “Let go of the tendency to want things to be a certain way or to judge how you’re doing.” It was a revelation!
I don’t have to be unhappy with things the way they are. I can let them be as they are without judging them or myself, and without trying to change them. I can engage the people, life, and tasks that are right in front of me, in the present, enjoying them for themselves as they are, “not trying to achieve any special state.”
Some of you are probably saying, “Duh!” But truly, this was a revelation for me.
It will take practice to implement this new paradigm, but it’s a shift that I look forward to making. Things will become what they become. Meanwhile they are what they are now and I will accept them as such; I will enjoy all the great people and work in front of me. “And whenever the mind wanders away, as it will tend to do, I will bring it back without giving myself a hard time.”