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Mindfulness doesn't mean peacefulness

September 28, 2011   |   4 Comments

From a participant in The Open Heart Project:

Q: “How can I increase my mindfulness when all the stressors of my life come into play at once?”

A: I really appreciate your question about becoming more mindful when you are experiencing moments of particular stress. This is totally doable. However–if by becoming more mindful, you mean ceasing to feel stress, it’s not going to work. When you are stressed (or happy or sad or bored or frustrated, and so on) the way to become more mindful is by simply placing your attention on your experience.

Your meditation practice teaches you exactly how to do this. When you meditate, the breath is the object of mindfulness. You place attention on it over and over and, when it strays, bring it back. You can make stress (or any feeling) the object of your mindfulness by doing the same thing: placing attention ON what you are experiencing, rather than trying to draw it away. I think you will find that turning toward your experience is the most direct way to liberate it. But don’t take my word for it. Let me know what you experience.

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  • Posted by:  Jamie

    Susan, I wonder if you can help me with this. I find turning my awareness towards the stress turns into obsessing about the stressor like a dog with a bone. I’m wondering what to do about that. Of course, as I write that I’m figuring the answer is that I become aware of my dog-with-bone tendencies. 🙂

  • Posted by:  Susan

    Yes, I understand what you mean.

    Two suggestions:
    1. Remember the technique.
    Each instance of stressing can be called “thinking.” Each time you notice you’re absorbed in thought rather than breath, you could let go and come back to breath.

    2. Sit longer
    Although it may sound counter intuitive, such instances of dog-w-bone tend to mellow on their own as your mind settles down. So if you sit for 10 minutes, try 15 or 20 sometime and see what that feels like.

    Hope this helps. Keep me posted.

  • Posted by:  Jamie

    Thank you, Susan. There’s something about the sitting longer that made me feel compassion for the dog-with-bone, like with more time, he’ll wear himself out. I appreciate the suggestions very much.

    • Posted by:  Susan


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“With wisdom, creativity and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the Enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.”

 – Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance