The Present Often Sucks

Mindfulness practice is not synonymous with breath awareness or deep relaxation.

Breath awareness is one possible exercise for developing important skills of attention.

Relaxation (mild or deep) is one possible theme of some mindfulness exercises and a not-very-reliable possible outcome of practice.

Mindfulness practice is associated with stress management and living in the present, but is not synonymous with them.

Stress management is one possible motivation for disrupting the default mode of attention. 

Living in the present is an idea, not a plan. It's also loaded. By itself, it's vague advice that usually feels like nagging to me. 

Live in the present! 

Be mindful!

Pay attention!

Slow down! 

Let it go!

Am I the only one who hears the silent"stupids" trailing these commands? 

Unhappy? Try harder!

Music to the perfectionist's ears. Familiar, but not very useful.

A skilled personal trainer would never expect you to become physically stronger by telling you to be strong. She would suggest specific exercises, help clarify your understanding of certain techniques, and encourage you to keep practicing instead of worrying about how strong you feel. 

When you make a habit of directly noticing sensory details, more of your moments will start to seem richer. You don't have to will this to happen. You'll stop considering yourself to be a failure when it doesn't. Direct your energy toward setting the stage for allowing your relationship to the present to grow naturally. 

If your strategy for trying to live in the present ignores that the present often sucks, you will frequently be convinced that you have fallen short rather than realizing that your expectations are unrealistic.

Mindfulness practice is not insurance against physical discomfort, emotional discomfort, or confusion. It is a long-term experiment, fueled by curiosity, to discover whether or not it's possible to feel at home in your life — even when comfort and certainty are unavailable.