Common Roadblocks in Practicing Mindfulness
Because mindfulness is already an ingrained aspect of whom we are – a natural ability, accessing it and therefore practicing it becomes simpler by identifying what blocks us from being mindful.
Mindfulness is a continuous journey of applying conscious attention, observation and presence to the here and now both within and without. Along this journey like with any journey we encounter roadblocks. The most common roadblocks to mindfulness are as follows;
1. Aversion to Conflict
Any type of aversion manifests as resistance. Conflict is disharmony or disagreement and it exists within us as much as it exists outside of us. Inner conflict stems from a disagreement and a lack of harmony between the two hemispheres of our brain. This is also commonly known as ‘war’ between the head and heart.
In practicing mindfulness the discomfort of inner conflict can make it difficult to be present. We would much rather ‘do’ something and pretend it is not there rather than embrace it. However to integrate mindfulness into our lives we must be willing to pay attention to and be present with our inner conflict. To become comfortable with the discomfort within us by acknowledging it and accepting it. Through acceptance we flow and through resistance we block.
Embracing inner conflict consciously allows us to flow with life, to be present within ourselves and direct attention to what is rather than denying what is.
Acknowledging, facing and accepting inner conflict allows us to do the same for outer conflict too. This results in a capability to be consciously present when our environmental circumstances are conflicting. It allows us to direct attention to what is, to become aware of the bigger picture and therefore accept it. It allows us to go with both the inner and outer flow of life.
Willingly facing our aversion to conflict provides consistency in our ability to be present and aware – to be mindful.
Unwillingness in the path of mindfulness can be described as ‘I give up’ or doubt as ‘I can’t do this’, ‘It’s too difficult’. Unwillingness is a manifestation of fear in the form of resistance.
We must be aware that the mind is not used to being quiet and not in control. When we are practicing mindfulness we are learning how to detach from constant thinking and instead embracing observation. In times of heavy resistance and unwillingness we must accept what is occurring. Consciously acknowledge the fear and set the intention to release it.
Every day our best looks different so do your best to apply mindfulness in times of resistance and unwillingness with the awareness that it will become easier the more we apply, especially when we don’t ‘feel like’ doing it.
Almost as if on purpose when we begin to practice mindfulness we encounter distractions from all angles. This can happen from within as relationship issues, old negative beliefs arising and over-focusing on the past or future neither of which exist right now. It can also happen outside of us through drama, disruptive events and negative encounters.
Distractions scatter our attention and pull us out of the present moment. However they are inevitable and our challenge becomes to acknowledge the distractions when they arise but to then consciously direct our attention back to the present moment – back to what is. This requires willingness on our behalf to always return to the present moment, to our inner centre even in times of chaos. We can do it as long as we are willing to do it. As long as we are willing to face resistance in doing it.
4. Dissatisfaction & Desire
When we are dissatisfied with our current circumstances we become absorbed with the desire for something different, something new, someplace else. Our attention focuses on alternatives to the present rather than the present itself.
Dissatisfaction arises from our unwillingness to accept what we dislike, what in ourselves or our circumstances makes us uncomfortable. It is impossible to be present when we are desiring something else than the present. To release dissatisfaction we can reflect on what we dislike about our current circumstances or inner state of being and what we can change about them and how. Doing so increases awareness through conscious attention to what is rather than what we wish it would be.
It is also important to accept dissatisfaction rather than deny it. Through awareness with conscious attention and acceptance we become more capable of being mindful and present.
Desire in itself is a block to mindfulness because desire absorbs our attention to wishing away the present moment. Desire focuses more on lack – on what we do not have and leaves no space for acknowledging gain – what we do have right here, right now. It is important to observe and acknowledge our desires but at the same time to release them. Instead of focusing on desires we can direct our attention to what we have when we find ourselves in a loop of wishful thinking. This results in gratitude and gratitude grounds us in the present moment, in being mindful.
Restlessness is a form of anxiety and anxiety is fear. This fear can be of change, of desiring to control the uncontrollable and fear of the unknown. Restlessness occurs when our mind is on overdrive meaning our attention is scattered in many places at once. There is no presence without attention which means that when we are restless it is impossible to be present. Restlessness occurs when our body is in one place and our mind is in ten places, leaving us nowhere.
To deal with restlessness we can begin by detaching from thinking altogether and consciously releasing control. By acknowledging we are experiencing fear and accepting it, sitting with it, observing it. When we observe fear by focusing on the feeling itself it begins to lose the power it has over us.
Silent meditation and grounding practices are ideal routes to dissipate restlessness. When we practice observation of fear – our biggest roadblock, we leave no space for fear to effect us by acting it out.
Roadblocks as Teachers
Aversions, unwillingness, restlessness and distractions are all forms of fear. Fear is the only true block when practicing mindfulness and it manifests in all types of ways to pull us out of being in the present moment by scattering our attention.
Instead of allowing fear to diminish our efforts in practicing mindfulness we can perceive manifestations of fear as our teachers. Without distractions, aversions, unwillingness and restlessness we would have no grounds to practice becoming mindful. By perceiving blocks as teachers and motivators we guarantee forward-movement in our journey of mindfulness.
We can also perceive fears as challenges to our goal that is mindful awareness and oneness with the present moment. Doing so tricks the mind by motivating it to overcome roadblocks of fear in order to receive reward that is mindfulness. This trick not only diminishes the power fear has over us but motivates us to overcome it.
The present that is life is accessed in the present moment – the eternal now.
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