Soothing Striving with Mindfulness

Following a slight gap due to illness and holiday I am back to continue the series of posts on the attitudinal foundation of mindfulness with an exploration of non-striving.

One of the significant changes I have noticed through practising mindfulness is the lessening of striving in the form of perfectionism. I remember the days of handwriting essays for GCSEs with a fountain pen and being awake much of the night on occasions tearing up and rewriting pages because of a single mistake; the days of constantly referring to a thesaurus to find just the right words for each sentence. It was painstaking and extremely time-consuming. Although computers have removed these issues to a large extent, I know that there has been a shift within me as well and I would attribute that mostly to mindfulness. It has been a gradual but steady change, from pushing myself hard to meet excessively high standards to wanting to perform the best I can whilst maintaining a balanced life.

Everyday life, by its nature, is goal-oriented; we are always aiming to achieve things and fulfil tasks. Meditation inclines us in a different direction; towards being rather than doing. Very often people come to mindfulness because they wish to be less stressed or more able to relax. They are encouraged to put these goals aside, as best they can, when embarking on an 8-week course. If we sit down to meditate to feel calmer, for example, then we are suggesting to ourselves that we are not okay as we already are and that we should be feeling different. Mindfulness involves paying attention to whatever is happening, so if there is tension then we would give attention to that. Mindful movement especially encourages non-striving in the acceptance it fosters for the limitations of the body.

With meditation, the best way to achieve goals is to not strive for results and instead to begin focusing on accepting things as they already are in the present moment. Movement towards goals will happen of its own accord with regular practice in this way.

If you are interested in learning mindfulness, I facilitate an 8-week Mindfulness for Wellbeing Course in Exeter and also offer introductory taster sessions.

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