Secular mindfulness courses have flourished in the past decade or more. There is Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Mindfulness Self-Compassion, Mindfulness X, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Strategic Awareness Training. These courses teach participants to find peace within themselves than to seek it outside of themselves. Mindfulness practices have been proven to promote well-being. But at the same time, mindfulness also has its critiques and can increase negativity. Here are 3 things missing in mindfulness practice to help you on the path of mindfulness.
Mindfulness practice is not about paying attention to the breath and then zoning out. Many practitioners misunderstand mindfulness as closing the mind to everything except the present moment. It is actually a lot more active than that.
Mindfulness requires the practitioner to look at one’s own mind with awareness. But how can we gain awareness? Awareness requires clarity of mind and needs one to be truthful to himself/herself. For example, if you are feeling agitated because you cannot see that your mind is restless because it is bored and your friend tells you that you seem to be in a bad mood. You start to raise your voice a little with aggression towards your friend and say you are not in a bad mood but your friend is the annoying one.
In this scenario, we often think it is the friend who is offensive. But how offensive is it to ask if the other is in a bad mood? If the other is not in a bad mood, s/he does not need to answer in an aggressive tone right? So, to be able to see your mind, you need to be truthful. You need to be honest with yourself. Honesty is the first missing ingredient often missed out on when practicing secular mindfulness.
2. Positive Actions
There are 3 missing things in mindfulness practice, which is the second one? The second missing ingredient is positive action. What is positive action? It includes positive action through the body, speech, and mind. We have established truthfulness as the first missing thing in mindfulness practice. Therefore, truth needs to accompany positive action.
Positive action needs to be authentic. This means the mindfulness practitioner does not go against his or her conscience by acting differently. It is not as rigid as it sounds actually. When we go against our heart when we act in the world, it brings about negative emotions such as guilt or fear. If a practitioner were to, for example, tell a lie so as not to hurt another person, that is a positive action. To know whether it is positive or not, our BETA (body sensations, emotions, thoughts, and action impulse) gives us a useful clue.
Why do we need to practice positive actions when applying mindfulness? The purpose is to help lift the mind. When the mind has no burdens from negative emotions through actions, it is light and clear. A clear and light mind contributes towards clarity and mindfulness itself.
The last of the 3 things missing in mindfulness practice is insight. This is often missing in secular mindfulness practice programs. If we are to only focus on our breaths and see nothing else in the mind, it is not a profitable mindfulness practice.
What are the insights that can come from mindfulness practice? When our awareness is strong enough, we can see how one thought leads to another. We can also see if we were to follow and believe in these thoughts, the effects they can bring to our minds. One can also experiment to change one’s thoughts and see what the change brings to the BETA.
When the practitioner becomes skillful in seeing his/her BETA, s/he will no longer be a slave to random or habitual thoughts. There is freedom from these thoughts. Why? This is when a practitioner is able to freely think and make decisions whenever s/he wants to instead of being carried away by these thoughts that may not necessarily bring well-being or reflect reality.