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Mindful : June 2016
3 Ways to Escape the “Perfect Meditator” Trap REMINDERS Sitting still in quiet and safety, well fed and sheltered, the mind is still quite capable of making an intense mess of the moment. We’re typically taken care of and in no danger while meditating, and yet can’t be peaceful or relaxed on command. The future looms, the past haunts, or the present may seem a complete muddle. If your mind adds that much stress to your life while sitting qui- etly, what does it do when life is actually confusing, hurtful, or unclear? Many of these confounding habits undermine the mindfulness practice we’re trying to establish to work with them in the first place. If you’re a new meditator, someone has hopefully explained that nothing is going to happen right away, and that you can’t force your- self to have a quiet mind or feel relaxed. 1 DON’T BUY IN What would it mean to observe any of your patterns or inner commentary with- out buying into it for a few minutes? I’m restless, and I’m just going to be OK with being restless right now. We set out with the intention to sit, we get distracted from that plan, and we come back to our present aware- ness. That’s just how it goes. 2 NOTHING’S PERFECT There is no perfect mindfulness experience, always serene and on tar- get, any more than there is a perfect life. Angst around boredom, rumina- tion or, of course, perfectionism during meditation often reflects how our minds function day to day. But even so, you imagine yourself sitting perfectly still, blissfully at peace and that you’re going to do this for 30 minutes ever y day, without fail. If you’re an experienced meditator, you might add a whole other layer: I’ve been doing this for decades. I’m still getting annoyed at people and I’m not that happy with my life lately even though I should know better, and I didn’t sit much the last few weeks like I should. I’m clearly not very good at it. A perfectionistic voice telling you what your mindfulness practice “should” be instead of valuing what it is may under- mine your determination to continue. Sitting in meditation creates an oppor tunity to notice it all and to choose a new path. Try practicing with the following things in mind: 3 KEEP COMING BACK Within your prac- tice and in every- day life, notice the obstacle when it crops up—there’s perfectionism again, something isn’t as it “should” be. And then return to the next breath, moving forward, adapting, and coming back to your best inten- tions once again.