“He did not have to transform himself in the way he imagined. He just had to learn to be kind to himself” Mark Epstein -Trauma of Everyday Life
Many times when we begin practicing, we use the instructions as an additional way in which we have to “transform” ourselves. We want to be “good” mindfulness practitioners so we need to do it right. The instruction is about being with what is and not judging it. But what if you’re not good at being with what is?
Therein lies the paradox of mindfulness. You don’t even judge yourself when you find yourself judging yourself! So what do you do? Like Mark Epstein says, “just learn to be kind to yourself”. Just like mindfulness, it’s a practice. Notice what’s going on. You’re not noticing your breath, you’re judging yourself for not noticing, you’re judging yourself for judging yourself. As long as you’re aware of it all, you’re practicing.
You meet it all with unconditional friendliness. It can go something like this. “Hi self, wow, you have a lot going on. I guess that’s the way it is today. I’ll gently try to return to my breath… Oh, we’re off again. No worries. It’s what happens. We’ll try again… Oh the bell rang and it seems we weren’t even mindful for one full minute.” But then you’ll realize that you were actually mindful of all that. Well done.