Why isn’t mindfulness easy?

Mindfulness sounds easy, really easy. It’s quite hard to say what mindfulness is without it sounding rather simplistic; it almost sounds as if you are not really describing anything at all. Yet it is near impossible to actually do perfectly, to be 100% present and aware in each moment. But why should it be so hard to do?

One reason is habit: we habitually invest a lot of time and energy in thinking about the past, the future, other places, people and events. This lifelong habit makes it difficult to let go and just be with the present moment.

But if that was all that was stopping us being totally in the now, a bit of concerted effort and regular practise would sort that out after a while. There seems to be something else that is holding us back from being completely and wholeheartedly right here and now.

In one word it would best be summed up as fear and its related emotions of apprehension, anxiety, worry and concern. Many of us have a degree of fear, conscious and unconscious, of being completely present because we have learnt that being here can be a scary and unpredictable place to be. We absent ourselves through our thoughts as a means of escaping the many potential pressures and threats, real and perceived, that exist in the world.

So mindfulness takes a certain amount of bravery and courage to do something that at some level we may be apprehensive of doing. Knowing this, when we sit for a mindfulness meditation we can watch out for any signs of this anxiety emerging, maybe as restlessness or worried and negative thoughts.

If at that time we can then get in touch with the underlying feeling and sit with it without judgment and without either encouraging or diminishing the sensations that come with it, we then enable ourselves to be more deeply present with ourselves, our reactions and our world and eventually we can become free of the traces of fear that may be keeping us from living fully and freely.

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