Mindfulness Activity #106
Good Morning. As we continue this series on self-acceptance, I was pondering why this task is so difficult. Why do people police themselves to the degree that guilt is such a pervasive experience. People judge themselves even when practicing mindfulness, a task with no real measurable consequences.
I attended college on a springboard diving scholarship. I loved being on a team. But, I distinctly recall the feeling when I performed my best or won a competition. It was not joy or elation, it was relief. I was relieved that I had done what I was supposed to do and I did not have to feel guilty. I didn’t feel that way when I was first learning to dive. I loved it. Once I had a goal to be “good” it made the experience much more difficult.
As Training Director for young forensic psychologists, I saw that my students would come in and tell me what was wrong with their research or practice before I gave them any feedback. They admonished themselves before any of the professors would criticize them. In a way it was protective.
I think people believe that if they do not have rigid goals and a harsh inner policeman, they will do nothing, stay the same, be “lazy.” My experience though tells me that sometimes it is the rigid inner scrutiny that causes people to want to give up or to escape. Scientists tell us that it is important that children are allowed to be bored and to have unstructured time in order to develop a sense of creativity, comfort being with themselves, and joy about learning from the world. Some of us may have missed this step or forgotten that experience because of the demands of our world. The media is full of idealized versions of how people should look, behave, perform…And when we make comparisons, we often feel we come up short.
Do not misunderstand, goals are not a problem, but if you are a harsh taskmaster, you can take all the joy out of striving for your goals. Even something you have personally chosen can feel oppressive. Mindfulness can feel oppressive. Any form of self-improvement or even activities for fun can become oppressive.
So today’s practice should be a little familiar if you have been doing these since March. This is my favorite loving kindness meditation. It is guided, so just click, cue up and practice. It brings a sense of joy and acceptance of yourself.
In this moment you are likely feeling at ease with yourself. Now, pay attention to this feeling and the sense that everything is okay. Your task today if you wish to deepen this practice is to do something that is new or that you are not skillful at and to breathe and try to return to this easy feeling. Do any activity that is a reach for you or that brings up feelings of inadequacy. Make some artwork, write a poem, play a sport, dance, read something you do not understand and then say to yourself, I don’t need to be perfect. The more that you experience yourself as imperfect and realize all is ok, the more you will quell your inner critic. You will be practicing self-acceptance and this leads to more joy.
Wishing you joy today! Michele