Musing on mindfulness

What do you do when life isn’t easy?

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Someone once said “life wasn’t meant to be easy” (Malcolm Fraser, one of Australia’s Prime Ministers if you want to know). Now, we can argue about the words “meant to be”, whether life was designed to be hard or not, but I think that most of us would agree with the main premise, that life isn’t easy.

It just isn’t. And the more we improve our chances for a happy life (in terms of governments, rights, health and wealth etc) the more stubbornly life remains “not easy”. Psychologists and philosophers have had a field day trying to explain why, so I’m not going to go there.

Most people aren’t happy or so I’m told, at least not happy often enough or for long enough. Sure, there are a few genuine optimists, but there are also many who just pretend they are. Some of that would be denial; some of it would be a decision to act optimistic in order to have and keep friends; some of it would be optimism because they haven’t thought things through (blind faith if you will); and of course there are as I said, genuine optimists, people who are secure in themselves and able to rationally look for the good whilst not ignoring the bad.

I’m afraid I’m not an optimist. But I do believe in being positive (just not very good at it!). I worry about things, have healthy dollops of anxiety (and unhealthy dollops as well), I tend to fear a negative outcome in situations even though so often it is the exact opposite (thank goodness for that!).

As I said I believe in being positive. One of the tools that can help is something they call ‘mindfulness’, living in the moment rather than dwelling on the past or fearing the future. To pay attention to ‘right now’ rather than lose the now by living in the past or the future. You start out setting time aside to do just that, a kind of meditation if you like, and the idea is that it spreads to a way of living your life. Of course, it’s still right to think about the past or plan for the future, but its all a matter of balance.

If you haven’t guessed already, I find it pretty hard to live in the moment. Nearly every time I try my mind wanders to the past or the future, or on to something that I can do nothing about right there and then.

Mindfulness is meant to be a great exercise to help you sleep. Focus on your breathing, or on sounds, or something that is happening right now, and your body relaxes, your anxieties or preoccupations recede, and off you pop to sleep. And it does work, when I actually succeed in doing it.

And here’s my point of this blog. In spite of the fact that I fear many things, in spite of the fact that I struggle and often fail to overcome my negativity or anxiety, I refuse to stop trying. Because to stop trying is to give in. If I stop trying, then I stay the same. If I don’t give up, there is a chance of movement, a chance of change. I have a saying – “I can change, or I can stay the same”. I don’t want to stay the same. So I will push onwards towards change.

So this is a kind of positive message, in a backhanded sense. Even though I am terrible at mindfulness, I regularly give it another shot. On the odd occasion it works, or at least partly works and I gain the benefit. What do I have to lose? Nothing but my lack of sleep.

So for what it’s worth, even though life is hard, it’s all we’ve got. There are still many many moments of joy and happiness even if they don’t last (actually the fact that they don’t last makes them all the more wonderful). A better life can be carved out, even if sometimes it is won inch by gruelling inch. “You can change. Or stay the same”. What would you prefer?

Author: Terry Lewis

I'm a guy in his 50's who thought it might be fun to write about day to day issues - the stuff that life is made of. It's helped me think and develop some deeper perspectives. I enjoyed it so much I thought I might start posting it in a blog, and here we are! I intend to mix it up as much as I can. I am a thinking kind of guy so the majority of my posts will probably have some kernel of truth or (hopefully) wisdom nestled in there somewhere. But I also hope to have some light hearted posts as well. Too much thinking can make life pretty dull! Anyway, hope you like it.

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