Iʻve practiced meditation and mindfulness, and studied Vipassana, Zen, and general mindfulness for a long, long time, but have just recently realized a big error that I would like to help others avoid from the “get-go”!
Practicing mindfulness, both formally and in everyday life, is a wonderful, life-changing thing, but it only goes so far, and can be very limited, if one approaches it as something to accomplish, or something to evaluate to determine its value.
It all boils down to holding on to the concept of “me”.
Being constantly concerned with “me”, “my life”, “my body”, “my mind”, “what Iʻm doing”, “how Iʻm doing” - we have this ongoing dialogue in our minds while weʻre doing what weʻre doing, which distracts us from fully doing it! This makes being truly mindful impossible, or, at best, very limited!
There is a place for evaluating, planning, etc., but there can be a dedicated time for that.
While doing meditation or engaging in other action in daily life, as Zen Master Soen Sahn, founder of the Kwan Um School of Zen, was fond of saying, “Donʻt check!”. In other words, donʻt evaluate how youʻre doing, whether or not mindfulness is working, etc. As he was also fond of saying (before the Nike commercials came out), “Just DO IT!” Just do the action; just come back to this moment, again and again!
So when we find ourselves evaluating how weʻre doing with mindfulness practice, and “checking” whether itʻs valuable or not, do we fight against those thoughts and try to squash them? No! Mindfulness means being aware of whatever comes up, including these thoughts, and, without judgment, coming back to the next moment, which naturally involves letting them go.
So itʻs very important to have an understanding about practice to avoid the trap of constant evaluation, of “checking”. We begin by understanding, and remembering, that this “I” that we get so attached to, and want to defend, is really just a concept. Our focus is to be aware, totally involved in life, in what weʻre doing, and save the evaluations for a dedicated time, sparingly.
While mindfulness is a great tool, and progress can be made, itʻs not a self-help program! Itʻs actually a way, a wonderful way, to live! Itʻs life itself!
So be aware of the concepts of “I” that come up, of the evaluating, the “checking”, let go, come back to this moment, and just DO IT!!!