Mindfulness Would Be Great, but We Made it Selfish.

With the increasing pressure of making up for all that we lost in quarantine, and the stark growth in the amount we relied on technology due to our confinement at home, it is not a surprise that we feel the need to race forward, do more, see more, and not waste a single second to stop and breathe. We want it all and we want it now. Many of us, worn out by this constant craze, turn to mindfulness, or rather, a warped version of it. In its true essence, mindfulness promotes the ability to admit to oneself that they are simply one part of a larger environment. In the race to become our best and most accomplished selves, however, our modern society has altered mindfulness so much so that it is unrecognizable. Now, to many, mindfulness is but a quick strategy that people turn to to satisfy superficial and materialistic desires and ultimately market themselves as more perfect than others.

Mindfulness, as it should be practiced, is a mental state that is characterized by its focus on the present moment in its entirety, as well as full awareness and calm acceptance of one’s emotions. When one achieves mindfulness, they have reached a state of being conscious of every moment that passes by, without dwelling on the past or getting lost in stressful situations. This mindset emphasizes complete awareness, rather than clearing the mind or solely focusing on the positive. Accepting one’s thoughts is very different from cherishing them. In acceptance, there is the recognition that each thought is individually insignificant in the grander scheme of the world, and thus not worth getting overly excited or depressed about.

In the modern promotion of mindfulness, however, these aspects are wholly disregarded. This mindfulness that we see so often promoted is a fraud. In order to embrace and accept all of the present with a reflective and unattached mind, one needs humility. Life isn’t all rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns. Moments that are pleasant and gratifying naturally co-exist with moments that bring about anxiety and grief. But no matter what emotion a moment may elicit, mindfulness is working towards a mindset in which one can take in those moments but gain distance, and thus, perspective. This only works if a person is humble enough to admit to themselves that many occurrences in life are simply inconsequential pieces of a much larger puzzle. But as it stands now, mindfulness markets promise to cleanse our spirit tenfold in order to keep up with social trends which are forever shifting. They have filtered out the bad and the ugly, erasing the need for humility, and left the unrealistic and the perfect, directly appealing to our selfish, indulgent nature. 

Let’s take an article from Mindful Magazine, for example. Within the first five sentences readers are promised that “with mindfulness, [they] can manage expectations, conflict, projects, communications, and relationships to get the result [they] want.” They are promised astounding results. This mindfulness focuses on how to benefit ourselves as individuals — how to stand out as a better employee than everyone else, how to live longer than everyone else, how to make the most money in the shortest amount of time. Yes, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve our lives, get promoted, and stay healthy. The problem is that we muddle the idea of becoming more mindful with simply prioritizing our own individualistic wants. True mindfulness does not equal gaining an edge at work or growing stronger in under a minute. Those are simply desires that we claim are included in mindfulness because we are so focused on how we can mold ourselves into the most flawless humans possible, regardless of those around us. 

We should perceive mindfulness as a mindset that does not stem from self-satisfying motives, but rather, from an absolutely selfless wish to consider our place among those around us and our larger environment. Of course, looking inwards and working hard on our character can be beneficial with self-restraint, especially in a time where it seems like there is always someplace to be, somewhere to go, and someone that seems to be beating you to it. But the influx of advertisements and social media hype around this false version of mindfulness has pushed many people to be consumed by their own self-interests, forgetting to turn their gaze back outwards. We must remember that genuine mindfulness does not contain self-centered ideas, but rather, encourages modesty about our position in the world.