Sometimes when I talk to people about mindfulness meditation, it seems that what they imagine in their minds is a scene like this:
Even if I were to grant that there’s something meditative happening in this scene, it’s still far from any sort of mindfulness.
“Find your power animal” is a spiritual visualization technique, not mindfulness meditation.
Now let’s look at a scene later in the film:
Here, the unnamed protagonist uses “guided meditation” to escape from the reality of pain. But this is the exact opposite of what we learn in our daily mindfulness practice.
In fact, being mindful in that situation would be precisely what Tyler demands: “Stay with the pain. Don’t shut this out.” This is the essence of mindfulness.
If you’re in pain, you don’t distract yourself from your body. Rather, you let the pain pull you into the reality of life as you stay in control.
Similarly, if you’re in fear, depression, or idle apathy, you don’t distract yourself from your problems. Rather, you stay in control and meditate on your present state as an expression of life, even if it doesn’t feel like life at all.
Mindfulness meditation is not an endeavor to avoid or alleviate pain and suffering, but to control your attention and to direct it towards the reality of the present moment.
What does it mean to be mindful? It means to get the most out of an experience. Be it happy or sad, good or bad, pleasant or painful—that’s unimportant; such judgments aren’t willfully entertained during meditation.
All that matters is the attentive presence to whatever arises in each moment, light and darkness alike.
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- The Basic Problem of Mindfulness
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- Everyday Mindfulness: Awareness Over Feelings