Why mindfulness can’t be optional

 

Have you ever tried to slow down and be more mindful? I have. For a long time, I sincerely intended to make mindfulness a priority, but I would eventually fall into my autopilot habits like over-thinking and an over-focus on problem-solving.

It felt right to focus on finding solutions and the stuff that need to be done.

But there is something we must remember… Our supply of attention and energy is not endless. Attention has finite neurological limits. Energy has finite biological limits. When we aren’t visible to our selves, we can plow ahead in blindness to these realities.

I’m so happy to see more people drawn to idea of mindfulness. It’s a testament to our inner wisdom that knows we deserve compassion and care. But I regularly see people get stuck at the idea of being more mindful. Just as it did for me, over time their autopilot steers them back to old habits of mindlessness.

To be more mindful, you must first deepen your respect for your attention. Our boundless good intentions are saddled with selves that are not boundless. Our bodies, minds and spirits do have limits. Intentions don’t always match the available resources. These realities deserve our compassion. But they don’t have to be the end of the story.

I absolutely believe that commitment and persistence can accomplish anything. We have tremendous individual power. But our power only remains potent when we care for our inner resources and direct it with choice. Intending becomes doing when we break through the self-blindness of our autopilot. Thinking in terms of self-visibility and using my “bucket” metaphor can help…

Our attention, and the energy that sustains our goodwill, acts very much like water. If it’s not contained in something like a bucket, it can evaporate, splash or spill out of control . We can entirely spill out of our selves into a task, thought, or endeavor. And the “entirely” part is the problem.

We can truly lose ourselves in relationships, compulsive activities that harm us, or dreams of more external influence than may actually be possible.  Affecting change in your life without a way to contain and care for your self, is as futile as trying move water without a bucket.

Our attention carries and directs our power. If it isn’t contained, we feel scattered and out of control because in essence we are. Without a good bucket, we aren’t able to feel and control the power we do have.

Unfortunately we’re not born with one. We must build it. We create it with conscious boundaries so we can see our limits before we’ve passed them. Our bucket is the way we remember and honor our power and our vulnerability. With a good bucket, we can keep track of our needs, hold onto our self in relationships, and carry ourselves in the directions we choose to go.

We’re going to use this bucket framework to describe self-visibility even more. But for now, your task is to begin thinking of your self as your most important resource. When you contain, protect and care for yourself, you maximize joy and the potency of your power.

 

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