Mindfulness has been touted as a tool for a better immune system. The mind and body have an intimate relationship. What affects the body also affects the mind and vice-versa. To be mindful is to be aware of one’s body, feelings, thoughts, and actions (BETA in MBSAT). Being aware of our BETA gives us an opportunity to know what triggers unhelpful reactions within us from our environment. The ability to discern is the key to mindfulness in helping us become more calm, peaceful, and non-reactive to adverse situations. Another mindfulness practice is to be friendly to everyone including ourselves. However, to be mindful is not to be a doormat.
Mindfulness Is Letting Go
When one is practicing mindfulness, one is practicing non-resistance to negative situations. When it comes to excitable pleasurable situations, mindfulness teaches one to not be overly absorbed in them and to pay attention to the present moment instead. In this way, mindfulness trains the mind to let go of being overly excited in both negative and positive events, therefore learning to be calm. When the mind is sufficiently trained to be calm, it will not be prone to react to emotions such as fear. It may also be able to handle bad news such as a bad health diagnosis.
For this reason, mindfulness is a wonderful practice. However, most people are still of the opinion that life should be full of ups and downs and they are willing to suffer the lows gladly to experience the highs. In this manner, we are all quite addicted to the highs. Highs do not need to be about taking drugs or alcohol. Falling in love is a form of high experienced by our minds as well. So falling heads over heels in love could mean a momentary infatuation and not really love at all.
Non-resistance to negative feelings means that the mind does not suppress discomfort such as body pains. It learns to let it go, allowing the painful sensations to pass-by like a guest. When it comes to pleasurable feelings, the mind also lets them go, because it is aware that any high must be followed by a low.
Letting Go Does Not Mean Not Caring
Most people misunderstand mindfulness to mean that one does not care at all. On the contrary, a mindful individual has friendliness and compassion towards himself/herself. As we saw in the letting go examples, a mindful practitioner lets go of any feelings that cause the mind harm (such as the rollercoaster ride of being on a high and being on a low). This helps a mindful individual develop compassion because s/he knows what it is like being addicted to highs and lows and no longer suffers as much from it while others still are. It is this recognition of the states in others that a mindful person can have love for others because s/he has stopped harming the self. Not all mindfulness practitioners are able to let go of being addicted to both highs and lows immediately with practice. It takes time.
Being Mindful does not mean to be a Doormat
Just because one is training in mindfulness to let go, it does not mean one will acquiesce to unreasonable demands. Speech and action can be firm but need not contain ill intentions, which translates to negative feelings. To love chocolate ice-cream does not mean we have to hate vanilla or other flavors. We can simply reject without having any dislikes in our minds. We can also indulge in chocolate ice-cream without being addicted to it. This means we can choose to refuse chocolate ice-cream if our health does not allow it.
In this way, mindfulness is a balanced practice. We can be firm about what we want and do not want, but we don’t have to color them with biased thoughts and feelings. Learn how to train in mindfulness with us at work or on an individual basis.