Why is it so hard for us to be mindful on a daily basis?
After taking a pretty hard look at my own life, and then at the lives of so many others who have lived and died so desperately in the past few decades, I’ve come to some conclusions.
I’m curious to know: Do you agree or disagree with these three reasons explaining why so many of us resist mindfulness?
Before we can even look at those three reasons, though, it is probably a good idea to discuss what mindfulness is.
In a recent article I published on Mindfulness in Schools, I defined mindfulness as being aware of our thoughts and feelings, of the way we express them, and the way they affect our bodies and our behavior. That doesn’t seem too threatening or hard to do, does it?
Yet, we live in an age where the practice of being mindful simply takes too long. We are discouraged to slow down, to practice patience, to consider the value of a thought, an action, or a reaction. Instead, we rush to publish our immediate and often emotion-laced thoughts on social networks with little concern about consequences (which, horrifying in its own right, there seldom are consequences, because most others participating in the social stream of consciousness are not thinking too deeply about what is being posted anyway; a death of a friend can get a “prayers to you” comment where, in the next 15 seconds, a YouTube video about a crazy cat can get an “LMFAO TOO FUNNY!!!” reaction, both by the same person).
Here are my three reasons why Mindfulness is just so darned hard for so many in a social network-driven society.
Being mindful of our thoughts and actions, and the way we might express them, means that we also have to slow down and take responsibility for them. It is an awareness that requires the courage to say, “This is who I am; this is how I am living my life.” It requires us to acknowledge that we are participating in the often fast and mad rush of social networking, among other aspects of life, and that we are glossing over most everything we read and see, simply because we don’t want to slow down and really feel what each of these status updates and posts might mean to us.
How else can we justify they way we read our feeds? Because so many of us now rely on social media as a primary source for news and information, we are allowing ourselves to detach from the deeper stories, the deeper meanings behind the words and the pictures.
Being mindful requires many of us to be accountable of these emotions, actions, and reactions. Our plugged-in lives do not allow for such slower speeds. As a result, we sacrifice the deeper experience for the superficial skim along life’s long surface.
Stepping Out Of The (Main)Stream
The second reason why so many resist mindfulness is that it might mean we are different from everybody else, and that by stepping out of the mainstream, we place at risk our friendships and social connections.
This begs the question: If this is a real danger, are you really living authentically in the first place?
Never before has it been so important to so many to “go with the flow” and be accepted or popular. Social media networks are designed for popularity (“How many likes can I get for this post?” “Do you like what I did/noticed/felt today?”).
To be mindful of our own thoughts and actions, it means that we have to also have the courage to step out of the mainstream and live a life that is not motivated, based on, or valued by a quantity of likes or comments.
Being mindful means asking ourselves a different question: Why am I sharing this? or What is my motivation in posting this information? Providing the answers to to questions such as these requires a commitment to living authentically that, in many ways, goes completely against the design of social networks.
Scorn, Judgment, Alienation
The third reason so many of us resist mindfulness is that we are afraid of the results or consequences of being mindful, most notably scorn, judgment, or even alienation from others.
If we are mindful, and thus accountable and not worried about stepping out of the social mainstream, we face the possibility of being labeled as different.
Soon, the chatter begins: “Did you see that…?” and “Why do you think…?” and even “I heard that….”
All because we were mindful and aware, and we thought a little before acting or reacting to a given event, circumstance, or situation.
So That’s It? Goodbye Social Networking?
Being mindful does not mean that we have to give up the social networks that we might follow, though it might lead us to change our behaviors in how we post and interact with others. In fact, being mindful should naturally enrich our online experiences because we are acting and reacting more genuinely to the information we and others are posting.
Our fears associated with mindfulness are based on nothing more than what-ifs and senseless acts of peer pressure, often self-imposed.
It is easy to believe that being true to ourselves will endanger the habits and friendships that have defined our lives for so long; this is simply not the case. The new friendships and experiences that come about from being authentic will undoubtedly add to the more rewarding and genuine relationships we establish with the people we have known most of our lives.
And for those that do offer scorn, are judgmental, or do alienate, so be it. They are merely showing their own insecurities, and we can only hope that, by being mindful and authentic, our lifestyle becomes their life lesson.