6 Mindfulness Myths Debunked
Mindfulness is a buzzword these days—for good reason! There are a plethora of scientific evidence about the positive benefits of mindfulness meditation, from the quality of our sleep, to how well we cope with and recover from illness.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found 47 studies that show that mindfulness meditation helps ease anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Not only does it ease anxiety and depression but it also increases positive emotion.
Mindfulness actually does decrease our suffering and helps us become better parents. It's how to be a calmer parent.
I read books about mindfulness for about a decade before I actually sat down for a meditation session. I started practicing regularly: ten minutes a day, six days a week. I set a timer and attempted to bring my attention back to my breath. It wasn’t fun.
A few months in, after a frustrating session, I thought, “This isn’t working! I’m just sitting here thinking the whole time!”
Then I reflected on the rest of my life and I realized something big, something life-changing had happened: I had not fallen into any of my pits! Mindfulness meditation truly transformed my life. Rather than being subsumed by the waves, I was finally learning to surf. Mindfulness and parenting more skillfully went hand in hand too—it was a huge factor in how to stop reacting and becoming more able to chose my responses instead. I was finally parenting in the present moment. Mindfulness became the foundation of the Mindful Parenting Method.
If we want to practice conscious parenting, we want to put the following myths to rest and understand some facts about mindfulness.
#1 MINDFULNESS IS A RELIGIOUS PRACTICE
Mindfulness is our inherent capacity to be aware, in the present moment, of what we are experiencing with an open and accepting attitude. It is a human capability that can be developed with training, through simple practices. Although it is not owned by any group, the cultivation of mindfulness can be found in many contemplative traditions, including Buddhism and all of the world’s major religions. However mindfulness practice is a form of mental training that is entirely secular and does not require commitment to any spiritual tradition.
#2 Mindfulness is meditation
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing our attention to the present moment, with an attitude of kindness and curiosity. When we practice mindfulness, we are purposefully guiding our attention to the sounds, feelings, and sense experiences that are happening here and now, and— this part is key—without judging what we experience.
Mindfulness about being present—in tune with our body, our senses, and things around us—in each new moment.
Meditation is a classic way to practice mindfulness, but you can also practice other kinds of meditation.
#3 Mindfulness is about taking time out to rest and relax
When we practice mindfulness, we may not be in a restful or relaxing moment. This is a big meditation myth as well. We may be practicing to be aware of an uncomfortable feeling like frustration or anxiety, which doesn’t exactly feel restful, even though it is helpful for processing those feelings.
Likewise, taking a nap or relaxing in a hammock is not the same as practicing mindfulness. We can relax in a hammock and get lost in thought, which is not the same as bringing our attention to the present moment. Mindfulness practice is about being alert and awake to what is really happening.
#4 Mindfulness is having no thoughts
If you have no thoughts you are dead or you’ve had a lobotomy. When we practice mindfulness—bringing our attention to the present moment with kindness and curiosity—we are not trying to squash our thoughts or push them away. (Again, also one of the big meditation myths!)
Just as the ears hear, the brain thinks, and that’s okay! Practicing mindfulness, we become aware of our thoughts, and aware of when thoughts take us away from the present moment, and then we return our attention to the present moment.
#5 The ultimate goal is to be mindful all the time
It might be wonderful to be mindful all the time, but that’s not the goal unless you want to be the Dalai Mama! Seriously, the goal is to simply have more control over your attention—to be present when you want to be present, and to reduce your reactivity so that you can choose how you want to respond to your kids. The goal is to reduce your anxiety, reduce your rumination, and feel happier and more present. (If your goal is to stop yelling, make sure you grab my free resources here.) The goal is to respond don't react. That doesn’t mean you are going to be mindful 100% of the time.
#6 Mindfulness is bliss
Mindfulness is about being present to whatever is arising in this moment, and much of the time it is NOT bliss. That’s okay. When we practice to be present to whatever emotions are here, we learn to tolerate our uncomfortable feelings and let them pass by more quickly. That “I’ve got to get out of here” feeling lessens and then we are more able to be with our children when they are having difficulties too.
A mindfulness practice can help you be more present to the joyful parts of life, however. Oftentimes, we’re actually missing the great parts of our lives because our minds are in the future/planning/ or generally elsewhere. When we practice to bring our attention to the present moment, then we can be truly here for the important things. As the zen master Thich Nhat Han said, “How can you love if you are not there?”
I hope these mindfulness facts are helpful! Mindfulness is at the very core of the Mindful Parenting Method and my books because it has the power to change lives. Check out my Resources page or get on the Mindful Parenting waitlist to make it a greater part of your life!
Do you want to go deeper? I've written a whole book about changing your own autopilot reactions and creating a relationship with your child based on love and mutual respect. It's called, "Raising Good Humans," an international best-seller, and you can find it here.
My new book, Raising Good Humans Every Day gives parents 50 in-the-moment mindfulness-based strategies to stop generational parenting patterns of ordering and threatening, and start to cultivate closer, kinder, more cooperative relationships with their children day to day.