You may have felt the benefits of mindfulness, a pause, a break, a sense of control, reduced anxiety or stress.. the list is endless.
But what about when it makes us feel worse? What’s happening there? First, there’s nothing wrong with you.
You are not the exception, the anomaly for who mindfulness won’t work for. This is really normal, at least at first.
Think about when you start to slow down and notice the cascade of thought (often negative and repetitive, thanks to our reptilian brain), our feelings (the negative ones seem to shout louder), and our reactions (sometimes not in our best interests, or that of others) and our pain, be it physical or emotional. How could this possible make you feel better, you ask?
In fact, it’s a bit counter-intuitive to focus on things that feel bad, isn’t it?
ONLY if you are trapped in self-judgement.
It’s easy to understand how one can slip from the positive outcomes of mindfulness—understanding and accepting oneself—and accidentally fall into the trap of self-judgment. But taking notice of one’s flaws, emotions, or upsetting feelings isn’t the same as judging them. When we attach a harsh judgment to an already difficult thought or feeling, we’re just adding salt to an already painful wound.
“When individuals criticize themselves and their feelings, thoughts, and emotions, they experience higher levels of suffering,” recent research notes. “Such self-criticism, far from being helpful in getting rid of negative moods and beliefs, exacerbates the very same negative thoughts and emotions that they are experiencing.” (‘The more you judge the worse you feel. A judgemental attitude towards one’s inner experience predicts depression and anxiety’, Science Direct).
It’s super important to notice HOW you are relating to yourself. Can you sit and notice the judgements as they come up?
We are wired to judge for survival. However, survival does not equal happiness. We are so busy in survival, we rarely get a chance to choose a different response.
Most of our day is spent in the past.. past memories, past routines, past reactions, past thoughts, past judgements. We see our life through the past.
The present moment offers us so much more than that. The present moment, if we can breathe and open to it, is immensely generous.
See your judgements and how they keep you small. CAUTION: DON’T JUDGE YOUR JUDGEMENTS! Smile and notice them like catching a fish: gotcha!
This allows clarity to focus on what is truly important here. See how this moment opens endless opportunities to respond or be, beyond your past thoughts and reactions.
I like how Oprah starts every single meeting with 3 sentences: “What is our intention? What’s important? What matters?”
Can we bring that into our lives, and see through our habitual judgements that are all based in the past and move into a loving acceptance of what is right now?
Life gave me a good example this morning. My 12 year old wakes up like a bear coming out of hibernation, including the growls. As we drove to school, I asked him questions bravely, hoping for a shred of interaction before we said goodbye. I noticed my anger, my shallow breath and tight chest, my thoughts (how difficult is it to make eye contact, after all I do for you, many children didn’t even get breakfast this morning, walk to school next time… on and on). I breathed a little deeper, opening up to what was present, noticed my dear son, the rain outside, considered all the options this moment was so generously offering me, saw his suffering without engaging with it because I know how that goes. Nowhere. What matters? What’s important here?
“Goodbye. I love you. Have a great day.” I said. Door slammed. I smiled. I felt good about my behaviour.
Let go of judgements to stop acting from the past. Take a different route from a place of compassion and what feels good for you.
What truly matters? Being right, or feeling good?
Have a wonderful day,
PS: Speaking of feeling good, come and press pause with me right here: