by clicking the "Next" arrow.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Mindful : June 2016
And that’s where mindfulness becomes use- ful. Surfing the never-ending waves of change and challenge that comprise real life, we aim to improve while not judging ourselves for feel- ing the need to improve. We can readjust and try again both in mindfulness practice and in the rest of life. After all, what can any of us do except pay attention to making skillful choices, work diligently at what it seems we can influ- ence, and try to be at ease with all the rest? The Opposite of Perfect There’s no question that mindfulness can be a muddled concept. For one thing, the word itself doesn’t mean a whole lot. It’s meant to capture a way of living. One aspect of the practice sounds something like this: When aware of what we’re doing instead of skating through life on autopi- lot, we have a whole lot easier time managing. Without effort and attention, our lives may otherwise follow the same old mental ruts, for better or worse, day after day. When we pay more attention, one of the first things often noticed is that the mind has a “mind” of its own. It creates ideas constantly— some useful, some random, and many on closer inspection simply habitual. When we’re func- tioning from autopilot, we keep living the same way, whether or not it’s to our benefit. We accept our assumptions, ways of doing things, and other thoughts as fixed and factual. But, as the saying goes, we shouldn’t believe everything we think. The Inner Critic is a particularly draining mental pattern. Like a playground tyrant, it’s an unrelenting heckler. It insults and judges mostly without reason—You’re not good enough. You should have done X or Y but definitely not Z again. Why do you bother? You’ll never get it right. That voice is not about improvement, making amends, or fixing what needs fixing—ideas we want to build upon. The Inner Critic embodies mindless self-judgment that undermines our confidence, and, ultimately, our well-being, and affects all of our interactions with the world. When we take that critical voice at face value, it fuels perfectionism—I blew it, I should be better at this thing; I shouldn’t be so (fill in your own habitual blank). Even if there were some credence to the thought—maybe we would bene- fit if we were a little less reactive or hit the gym more often—the incessant negativity isn’t help- ful. Change and effort do not require constantly deriding ourselves along the way. In fact, they’re often upended by it. Most of us spend a fair amount of energy try- ing to convince ourselves that this judgmental voice is wrong, but it’s not a logical thought to start with. We posit and plea and debate with it, but it’s not even-handedly grading our perfor- mance. We can’t with logic alone solve why we’re down on ourselves or why we’re better than the Inner Critic would have us believe. The truth is, over-analyzing our own worth, skills, or prospects can’t really influence an inherently irrational voice. When we recognize the Inner Critic as noth- ing more than an entrenched mental habit, we shift our relationship with it. Instead of trying to pacify this voice, we label it and create some distance. Thanks anyway. That’s judgment, and I’m not wrestling with you today. Instead of believing its nagging opinions, we pause, nod at our personal heckler with a smile, and come back to our senses once again. Self-Critical Thinking I should be better spoken, less irritable, and more reflective. I should be a better meditator. I should be taller and have more hair. I should... There are things we absolutely should take care of in a concrete sense: I should put solid effort into my activities and work. I should walk the dog. I should give money to charity. Indeed, we should do what we can to improve our lives and the lives of others. Yet much of the time “should” instead represents a red flag. It’s a warning signal that something does not match an uncompromising, not always realistic, mental mirage we’ve created for ourselves. → Instead of constantly trying to pacify our Inner Critic, it can help to just label it for what it is—an entrenched mental habit of judging ourselves harshly and mostly without reason—and create some distance from it. June 2016 mindful 49 well-being