My Mindfulness: A Reflection on How Mindfulness is Different for Everyone
by Grace Masback
Mindfulness is currently all the rage. It’s being taught at schools, community centers, and workplaces across the country. Everyone is talking about it and it certainly feels like everyone is doing it. In 2014, mindfulness made the cover of TIME Magazine. In 2015, 18 million Americans reported using some form of mindfulness/meditation. There are even countless apps dedicated to it.
As someone who is constantly stressed out and on edge, I am always pushing my own limits so that I can accomplish all the many things I want to do, even when I know I don’t have enough time. In other words, I am a prime candidate for mindfulness — at least that’s what my friends, family members, and mentors have consistently suggested. “Even Ariana Huffington does it,” they say. Still, I have adamantly refused.
Although I briefly had a mindfulness app installed on my phone, and took part in a relatively successful two-day streak of practicing mindfulness before bed, I have never been caught up with or particularly enamored by the trend . . . or even the general concept behind mindfulness.
For starters, I don’t like the idea that there is some sort of institutionalized formula to help me relax. The notion that I can listen to a calming voice on a recording, take a few breaths, and then suddenly be relaxed seems overtly inauthentic, something pre-packaged to meet the needs of the consumeristic world in which we live. Relaxation should be private, personal, and individually determined.
Additionally, mindfulness has become a brand, another thing for people to profit off of in an increasingly capitalistic world. This is not to say that there are not individuals who teach mindfulness with the best of intentions, but I dislike the idea of a form of realization built on a financial enterprise.
Finally, I just don’t feel like it works . . . for me. Having to make time to be “mindful” just makes me more stressed out. Although I understand that the point of being mindful is consciously finding a time to step back from your life to reflect and unwind, for me, taking a step back only serves to promote greater stress and unhappiness. It has always seemed to me that I am fine without finding ways to manage stress — I accomplish what I want to accomplish, do what I need to do, and move on.
Overall, the fact that mindfulness is becoming so popular reveals a sad truth about today’s society. It suggests that we are increasingly stressed out, unhappy, and preoccupied with self-doubt, and turn to mindfulness in a desperate attempt to find meaning or at least a sense of calm.
Before you despair based on my cynical, existentialist, F. Scott Fitzgerald-esque view of the world, let me be clear that I don’t think all hope is lost. Something Ariana Huffington said in her ten questions interview really resonated with me. She said that the most difficult part of high school was the feeling that she was “stuck” — that there was an entire world out there that she was missing out on and that she just had to make it through high school and then she could begin to truly live her life. In other words, she was living in the future instead of the present.
I understand her dilemma. All too often, my friends and I get too caught up in our visions of an idealized future, putting aside our current happiness in order to achieve some conception of nirvana somewhere down the line. A fatal flaw shared by many. Hearing Ariana talk about this topic made me realize that finding a way to be more present in the moment, to appreciate where you are in today’s life instead of being anxious about the future, isn’t such a terrible thing.
For some, the way forward may be mindfulness. For others, perhaps a different path. Although the idea of thinking about my breathing still makes me recoil, taking the time to think and reflect while on my daily runs or while writing has promise.
After a bit of semi-mindful reflection, I have come to realize that mindfulness doesn’t have to mean sitting cross-legged on the floor with your eyes closed. Being mindful is just a means of feeling grounded — running, baking with friends, walking your dog. My hostility towards the very idea of mindfulness has, at least for now, diminished, and I have Ariana to thank for that.