Are you curious about mindfulness? Just finished week three of my latest round of MBSR coursework at Duke. If you recall, MBSR is a mindfulness training program meant to help people calm the hell down. 

When I started this journey in 2017, I wanted to earn a coaching certificate and teach mindfulness to clients and students. Now that I’ve been studying for a year, things don’t work like that. 

I’m just at the beginning of this training. I’ll always be at the beginning because one of the primary tenets of mindfulness is the “beginner’s mind.” No, it’s not a pyramid scheme. My instructors preach the value of curiosity and embodying an attitude of openness and eagerness towards almost everything. Even when you think you know somebody or something, it’s important to let go of your preconceived notions. 

There’s no pass or fail in mindfulness, only practice. You don’t get a trophy when you’re proficient. You get peace of mind, and maybe not even that.

Our instructors also teach that it’s essential to stop judging things, or, at the least, observe your judgy behavior quietly. Try to get in front of it. Dig a little deeper and ask why it’s happening right now. What about this unique moment in time is making you cast judgment on yourself or something else?

Takes the fun out of being judgy that’s for sure.  

Observing myself is a meta-exercise that could leave me in a narcissistic turmoil for days, except that mindfulness is about adopting a non-striving attitude. So, don’t strive to change. Observe yourself or don’t. Accept how you are at the moment. Trust those feelings aren’t facts. Be patient with yourself. Then let it go.

And you’re supposed to breathe. Holy shit, I forgot to tell you the most important part. Keep breathing. Breathe more than you think. Focus on the inhalation of the air and exhalation of your breath. And, while you’re breathing, those curious thoughts and observations might quiet down. Or maybe not. Stop judging it. Get back to breathing. Except be relaxed about it. Don’t put so much effort into it.

With these rules, which are barely guidelines and mostly just suggestions, the natural contrarian in me wants to hate it. But I love it. It’s not like I’m fixed through the magic of mindfulness, but it’s easier to see that “being fixed” isn’t the point. The goal is to find a less toxic way to live my life.

But sometimes I want to yell at the world and scream, “Dammit, don’t you see I’m mindful?” I also want to yell, “I’m kind to you, and you don’t fucking appreciate it. You are so basic!”

So, yeah, I’m not ready to teach this stuff. But I’m at the stage in my training where my brain moves from hyper-aroused to observant to quiet with a little more ease and fluidity. And it all started with a few goals: 

  • Silence the inner monologue.
  • Communicate with greater ease and listen more.
  • Avoid emotional craters when things don’t work out. 
  • Forgive myself and others when it all goes wrong, or, at the least, stop ruminating excessively.
    So, if this blog post has you curious about mindfulness or MBSR, you don’t have to go it alone. Read books. Go online and find a program (or even a counselor) who specializes in this field and can help you get started. Give me a call. I can send you a few resources.

    But I can’t teach it. I might still pursue a formal certificate from Duke, but being an official coach is an audacious goal. I’m not there yet. Right now, it’s just about living a better quality of life. I am doing interior work that should pay dividends in the real world.

    I can also report that most people are mimics. If I can show how life improves through intentional breathing, maybe I can just teach mindfulness by being mindful. Not a bad goal to have in 2018.