The Role Of Motivation In Learning Mindfulness

In the past 2 or 3 years mindfulness has become a household word and many people ask me what it takes to learn it. There are many articles/seminars and advertisements geared to having you believe that along with the instant culture we live in there is also instant mindfulness. I’ve spent a lifetime looking for short cuts and have yet to find any. Thankfully I’ve always hedged my bets with diligent practice.

Understanding mindfulness is a pretty quick process and I’ll admit that someone can become an expert in a short period of time if they were inclined to do a lot of reading on the subject or attend multiple seminars. I’ve read articles and attended seminars that came from mindfulness “scholars” but came away shaking my head when I sensed that they hadn’t really applied it to their own lives. As for the short practices that these experts promise will deliver desired results, I don’t think they do.

Certainly an introduction to mindfulness through bite-sized practices has its place and can

lead to a deeper commitment to practice but these short practices need to be represented honestly as ways to get a taste of mindfulness. Once you’ve gotten a taste and decide to make a commitment to sustained practice what does it take to be “successful” and experience transformation?

I’ve experienced and seen through my students what it takes to stick with a practice of mindfulness, first over an 8 week program of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and then to continue to practice and make it part of your life. It may seem harsh to say this and I’ve tried to prove myself wrong for years, but what I notice is that if there is not a sufficient level of suffering, discomfort, dissatisfaction, pain or whatever you want to call it, there is a good chance you won’t stick with it.

It could be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual or a combination of these things but they are necessary engines to drive us through the inevitable resistances that come up with sustained practice and make no

mistake about it, it needs to be sustained. That’s why MBSR has been so successful in the healthcare system. It deals with all these issues, not so much spirituality, but all the others. Most people come across a sense of spirituality even when doing a secular practice such as MBSR. Once the issues have been dealt with it is good to remember where the motivation came from. In addition, by then there is usually a sense of wanting to help others that adds to the motivation. If we are lucky, we will continue to bring mindfulness to young people through the schools and it will provide the benefits to transform them before resistance and suffering kicks in. I know it sounds a bit utopian, but if there is such a thing, this would be a good start.