By Jill Dabrowski
Mindfulness: A way of being more present in our daily lives.
It is a concept bandied around so frequently in common parlance that its meaning and significance have become convoluted. Many talk about it, but few are able to truly embrace it—myself included.
In so many ways I despise the word itself. Intuitively, all it espouses makes perfect sense. It presents an ideal, or at the very least, an aspiration; a way to be more present—in the here and now. In your own body and your own life. Not getting pulled by the past or pressed to the future. My perspective, however, is a bit tainted. The gentle ripples of water I envisioned were transformed into a tidal wave during my most in-depth structured “mindfulness” experience.
You see, I was kicked out of my Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course (MBSR). Removed by the very individual who had introduced me to it, and who touted herself as a strict disciple of the mindfulness ideals.
While many associate mindfulness with examining a raisin and learning a deeper sense of inner peace, I associate it with feeling like a failure. I still recall my last evening in the course. I silently sobbed for nearly two hours; a few times some desperate gasps escaped as the tears streamed endlessly down my face. I never asked for anything or betrayed my own silence.
Throughout it all, she remained unmoved.
Within a short period of time, it became increasingly clear that the leader herself was a torrent of instability and was unable to cope with her own imperfections, so they were projected on to me. The depth of my emotions—which were, at least in part, created by some of her actions—were far too much for her to bear. She told me I was no longer welcome. I had not been disruptive. I followed along dutifully with the meditations and the exercises. I was engaged.
When I was told I could no longer partake in the course, I was devastated.
Rather than my mind becoming less cluttered, it was filled to the brim with sadness and disappointment. I was wounded deeply. One of the principles of mindfulness is being more in the moment, accepting what arises without judgment; trying to be aware of each breath and experience as it comes, but not attaching to it. Given the circumstances, however, that was not possible for me. I was enrobed in those moments—the ones where I had been rejected so harshly and pushed away. I could not stop thinking about it, and judging it. Something I wanted and needed, and maybe even deserved, had been taken from me; without my input, without my voice ever being heard in the conversation. In so very many ways, I felt like my feet had been swept out from under me and the wind was knocked out of my lungs.
I was gasping for air as she “mindfully” stepped over me.
Based on my experience, the word “mindfulness” feels abrasive and it makes me imagine that my mind is full of the memories of the past that have to be closely examined and processed. As hard as I try, I cannot make the word itself mean something different.
And yet, I keep coming back to mindfulness—the concept at least, but without using the word. I still meditate daily. I practice yoga regularly. I focus on my breathing. I chant with my eldest son. I have become more attuned to my own inner landscape—acknowledging my feelings and attempting to let them pass without becoming as entrenched in them.
So maybe the current wave of mindfulness has caught me, but I prefer to say I am embracing and creating my own inner peace. I am a conscious observer of my thoughts and emotions. I do not believe that I need a script or a class or someone to tell me where I do or do not belong. I will continue to believe, as Jon Kabat-Zinn wisely stated, “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.”
Jill P. Dabrowski spends much of her time chasing children, chickens, and dreams. She runs and writes and meditates and still finds time to wish on dandelions and falling stars. Jill feels too much, sleeps too little, and is horrible at self care. She lives for the spaces in between and the people who make her heart come alive. She is rather accustomed to chaos but still constantly craves calm. She is actively working to become more comfortable in her skin, scars and all. She has written for Rebelle Society and Some Talk of You & Me. You can follow her musings and mutterings on Facebook and on Instagram.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak