Many therapists, myself included, preach the virtues of mindfulness and meditation. Like our clients, we are imperfect practitioners. We experience the same frustrations our clients do.
I was attempting to remedy the imperfections in my own practice by taking some video training in mindfulness from Jon Kabat-Zinn. Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgement.
His mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program is offered by medical centers, hospitals, and health maintenance organizations around the world. He is, according to some, the founder of the mindfulness movement, and to others, the modern day “gold standard” of mindfulness training.
Despite being preached the gospel of mindfulness, I felt like I was failing. As Kabat-Zinn modeled being perfectly at peace, I was anything but. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be “doing something,” which led me to thoughts such as “I’m doing this wrong!”, and “I’m a failure and a hypocrite!”
Why am I so hard on myself? I’m one of those “Type A” personalities — competitive, organized, ambitious, impatient, and highly aware of time management. If I’m not doing something, I’m wasting time. How is doing nothing – in mindful parlance, “being,” instead of “doing” – getting anything done? How, I asked myself, is this moving my life forward?
It turns out that there is evidence – a lot of evidence – to respond to the questions put forth by the Type A mind. Our instincts tell us that we’re not doing anything useful, but the research shows we are reducing our stress levels, reducing the volume of unwanted thoughts, improving our memories, improving our focus, improving our relationships, and building stronger immune systems.
If you’re a Type A like me, do your homework: check out the research on mindfulness. You’ll find that “being” instead of “doing” may be one of the “doing-est” things you’ll ever do.