We Secretly Always Want To Feel "Good" And That Keeps Us Feeling "Bad"
“Your strategy for living in the present would go a lot better when you accept how frequently the present sucks.” Daron Larson
I seem to have fallen into some kind of trap – the trap of writing about Mindfulness. Quite frankly, I’m sick of the word because it’s so overused and over-hyped and over-everything these days. Everyone knows about it and talk about it, and only a handful actually practice it at all. Which makes it a common pattern among trends.
And yet, I came across this Ted Talk by Daron Larson that gives a rather refreshing spin on Mindfulness that is so different from that which is bandied around popularly. He talks about how trying to BE mindful is itself a trap – leading us away from the true spirit of the practice. This is because if there’s mindfulness, that entails the opposite state – mindlessness is there to be avoided.
Real mindfulness (without the capital “M”) is about opening and allowing things to be just as they are, without making any preferences to be different. An extremely difficult thing to carry out in real life (but of course, easy to philosophize about).
Larson’s quote above sums up the spirit in which to approach life mindfully without a) making it a special practice to do that is so far removed from daily life, and b) participating in a life that realistically sucks most of the time.
His quote more than anything got me thinking about my own approach to my emotional life. Here I was berating people for trying to follow a trend to feel better in themselves (which is exactly what mindfulness is NOT about). But was I any better?
For secretly, I was engaged in practices such as meditation and Focusing with the hidden intention (not clandestine enough it seems!) of taking me away from my uncomfortable emotional states. I was picking and choosing what I wanted to feel.
I said it wasn’t a clandestine intention because after all these years of practice, I still feel stuck and disconnected from myself emotionally. I say this because I know how very difficult it is, to really, REALLY allow how we feel in a moment to be.
We have layers upon layers of the same intention, moving from the obvious to the subtlest, to change how we feel.
So these days, in the spirit of Focusing inclusively on ALL My emotional experiences, I’ve come to see my intentions to change how I feel as another manifestation or facet of my Emotional Self.
I call this “part” (perhaps aptly)…The Persistent One.
Nowadays, whenever I feel the urge to feel differently, or find myself putting in any kind of effort in my meditation or Focusing at all, I see this as a sign that The Persistent One is at work behind the scenes.
I turn my attention to it and sense its physical presence in my body. It’s familiar now – a sense of impatience, of urgency, or pushiness and tension, like a quick glossing over of things instead of settling down to examine them. I’ve known it when I was impatient to read a book page-by-page, wanting to get to the very end to find out how the story finishes.
There’s also a deeper level to The Persistent One’s glossing-over-impatience - a subtle sense of being overwhelmed. It says, “There’s too many things to take care of! I want a break!”
And questions, “Why does it have to be so hard? MUST I go through ALL of this? It’s not fair! I’ve struggled with this for long enough!!” Which points to a longing of some kind to get quickly to a better place, once and for all. It feels put upon and indignant. And perhaps a little bit hurt.
This is why Larson’s admonition for us to recognized that reality as it is – in this case, my difficult and uncomfortable feelings – is so powerful. It reminds me to go through all the pages of the book instead of skipping to the end. Because unlike reading that book, I have no option but to go through what I was feeling step-by-step. There’s no “skip” or “fast forward” option.
Going through whatever I was feeling step-by-step includes allowing for The Persistent One’s presence as well. It’s part of my story as well, the shadow companion to each of my feelings. In practice, it means that I acknowledge first its longing that it doesn’t want my emotional life in the present to suck. Take a while to go a little deeper into it to know it a little bit better (each time).
Understand that for me, it sees the price at the end of all this effort. The price of being finally comfortable in my own skin and at rest, and how it is SOOOOO overdue. That way, it feels, I can finally get on with my life. Even writing these words as they freshly arise for the first time relaxes The Persistent One.
With this relaxing, I can then read the pages of my other feelings - mindfully.
Can you relate to The Persistent One?
Next time you find yourself engaging in something to make yourself become better, see if it’s driven by your Persistent One.
Learn from it and find out what drives it so relentlessly. That way, perhaps you can really finally get a feel for how to “just be” – as the mindfulness practitioners are wont to say.