The challenges of mindfulness

I’ve done mindfulness on and off for a while now but have really upped my game plan since being hit with my recent anxiety.
I’ve been meditating every evening before I go to sleep – I do also sometimes fall asleep and I’m sure it wasn’t developed for snoozing, I suppose I feel that I would rather be going into a nice relaxed sleep (which lets face it sometimes eludes us when we’re feeling anxious – 2 hours of sleep last night people!) that I don’t worry myself too much about it.

I use Jon Kabat Zinn’s guided body scan meditation. I recently described it as the highlight of my day, which probably sounds really tragic but it’s basically down to the fact that it’s the part of the day where I can relax, have some respite from my screaming thoughts and feel like I’m doing something good for myself. That’s not to say that it’s not without it’s challenges and these have been worrying me (so what’s new?!) so I thought I’d write this post and see if anyone else out there struggles with some of the  same things….

1) Silencing the inner critic- I would like to hazard a guess that those of us with anxiety are probably pretty hard on ourselves and it really likes to feed on my mindfulness time. So for instance I know that it’s natural to lose focus during meditation and for the mind to wander, I try to tell myself that I’m not judging and that I’m just accepting it for what it is but the devil on my shoulder insists on saying that I’m having a crap session, that I can’t do it and that I’m a hopeless meditator. There’s nothing more distracting than two parts of your brain competing to have the final say about whether or not it’s going well.

2) Cultivating acceptance – I really struggle with this even though I know it is a large part of mindfulness. As far as I understand it, it’s the idea that we accept our state,thoughts, feelings, sensations just as they are. So for instance at work today I was feeling anxious, I went to the loo to do a couple of minutes of mindfulness (glamorous mindfulness location!) and I tried to uncritically observe my feelings and sensations. I tried to accept and therefore not mind that I felt like my breakfast was about to possibly end up in my bosses lap and that I feel like I’m losing my mind but the honest/true part of me really does mind all this. How do you accept something that you’re really not OK with? Or am I actually being mindful by being aware that I’m not OK with it, in which case maybe I’m being mindful about being mindful?!

3) Not going into it with expectations – This is similar to the above but I suppose it’s something that feels really relevant for me. I try to tell myself that I’m not doing it with the hope that it’ll ‘cure’ me or make everything better but again that truthful part of myself is saying that’s absolutely what I’m doing. I think especially when I read all the all-singing, all dancing testimonies from people that state that even after a couple of sessions they already notice a difference and so on, it’s hard not to get my hopes up with that sales pitch! Now here’s the thing…I don’t think I do notice a very big difference to my anxiety and I definitely don’t have the little bursts of joy that I read people talking about. OK for the period of the session I’m relaxed because I’m not focusing on my thoughts but it is sometimes just a quick hop, skip and a jump right back to feeling anxious again. If I’m totally honest I feel a lot of disappointment when that happens because the brutally honest part of myself is thinking “I’m putting in the hours so where are my rewards?” (again so far not so very mindful). That leads me to be very hard on myself (thoughts such as I’m probably not doing it properly and why does it work for everyone else and not me) and then I’ve just gone full circle back to Point 1. So is it about lowering my expectations?

As you can probably tell from these points, I’m a bit of an over-thinker!

I really love the idea of mindfulness and will continue to do it and keep it as a part of my day and just try to see what happens and enjoy the journey, but wow that devil on my shoulder has a loud voice sometimes.

So what do other people think? Any people who have the same problems? Any people who’ve overcome these challenges?
All thoughts welcome (except if you’re going to be hard on me, I think we’ve established I do enough of that already).


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