Beginning to practice mindfulness is a big step. In and of itself, the action means you are trying something new and being open to it, so kudos. Here are some major things to avoid.
- Having expectations of immediate quietness and serenity. Mindfulness often feels like a game of whack-a-mole and a conscious effort. It’s hard not to feel like you have failed when you mind wanders if you assume that it won’t. It most certainly will. Some days are better than others, but the mind does its thing – we have to respect that. Judging your thoughts is just another thought. Similarly, rejoicing at how your mind is completely serene is also a thought. It should be treated the same way as every other thought: acknowledged. Rather than trying to purge it, it is best to simply shift the focus back to the present, e.g. to the breath.
- Assuming mindfulness will always make you feel better. Most of the time is does. However, practicing mindfulness will bring things to the surface that weren’t previously acknowledged: feelings, thoughts, facts. They’re not always good, hence, it could cause upset. The thing to remember is that you are always better off knowing now – rather than finding out in six months’ time when it has grown into a monster and manifested itself through a crisis.
- Struggling to get the perfect form. There’s no need to sit up straight if it makes your back hurt. If your quads are too tight, there’s no need to cross your legs. You can assume any position that is comfortable – but promotes wakefulness. The cushion doesn’t have to be a certain perfect size. You don’t have to log it on your phone. You’re only doing this for you, not for the sake of perfection.
- Only meditating when the you are really stressed. While most people pick up the practice in order to deal with stress, it makes sense to practice consistently. It’s ok to skip a day here and there. However, it is important to not rely on meditation as a remedy for the bad days. Otherwise, it is the equivalent of only going to the gym after you’ve put on weight.
- Feeling you have to do it for x length of time or it won’t work. It’s hard to know what the dose-response curve is like with mindfulness. It is best to meditate for as long as you can, that’s all.