Among friends and family, I am undoubtedly a broken record when it comes to my advocacy for a mindfulness meditation practice. Part of the reason that I often publicly comment on it is because it fortifies my commitment to a habit that is hard every day yet continues to be a source of sea change within myself.
However, mindfulness is not without its dark side. Being more aware of your thoughts makes you more aware of the things that your ego normally protects itself from: the slide into deep procrastination, the terrifying grip of anxiety, the debilitating fear of failure, the uncomfortableness of not knowing, and the frightening sense of lack of control. In the awareness of those emotions, there's darkness. I wonder to myself, Am I doing okay?
It's not really a complete darkness, though. With kindness and patience, I can push through these negatives to a positive because on the other side of these disconcerting moments of awareness lies clarity, resolve, and freedom. My procrastination might be linked to a fear of failure: I would rather handicap myself then try my hardest and fail. My anxiety could be a deeper unease about whether the values I find important are driving the life I'm living. That discomfort of not knowing may just be an unwillingness to admit that I know the truth but acting on that truth is hard. More often than not, gaining these insights is half the battle.
Ultimately, then, this dark side is a good thing for it teaches me something every time I'm willing to peer into the fog of these negative emotions. That doesn't mean that I always find my way out of the fog: a unintended effect of looking inwards is that sometimes I get lost in those negative spaces for too long, having lost my bearings in the game of awareness. Even with those potential pitfalls, it's worth it. When we risk the vulnerability of self-awareness, we also invite the potential rewards of true understanding. I'm no longer crippled by the shadows if I know the way out. I share this not because I have the answers, but because I think flexing the muscles of self-awareness has been immensely helpful for me. It might be helpful for you, too.
If meditation sounds interesting to you but you want a little help kickstarting the practice, I have some vouchers for a month of a guided meditation serivce called Headspace. While I've since moved on to silent meditation without guidance, the service made getting started very easy. With the 10-day free trial and a month of sessions, you have plenty of time to install the habit. Get in touch if you'd like one!
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