- Andrew Lewis
Fixing what isn't broken
Many people come to mindfulness and meditation seeking help. They may be having difficulties with anxiety and stress. They may be having trouble controlling strong emotions like anger and fear. They may have suffered deep loss or other very difficult circumstances. They may be depressed. They may be disappointed in what they perceive to be personal failings and weaknesses. They will try anything to bring about a change, to fix a life that seems to be unsatisfactory.
This is not to be discouraged and those who stick with the practice and fully engage with it will find much that is helpful and rewarding.
However, it is not the point or purpose of the practice. Mindfulness is not therapy. Consider this: would you try to play a game without understanding the rules or object of the game? How could you play chess without knowing how the pieces are allowed to move? Would you try to fix a gadget or a machine if you had no proper idea of how it worked? What would happen if you did make such leaps into the unknown? Would everything run smoothly and make sense? Or is it more likely that you would find yourself at the centre of some muddle, chaos and confusion? You would cry for help.
Mindfulness practice is about understanding how things work, understanding the rules of the game. It is about understanding how we, as individuals, function. It is getting to know the mind and the body in a clear, grounded and factual way. This is why mindfulness is not primarily a therapy. How can you know that something about you is broken and needs fixing if you don't have a clear understanding of how your body and mind is working? How can you know things are going wrong and out of control if you are not familiar with the mechanisms of control? If your car is not slowing down because you have no idea where the brake pedal is, does this mean that there is something wrong with the car?
Perhaps you have spent much time feeling that you are failing. You feel inadequate, fearful anxious. You have become convinced that there is something wrong with you. You are weak, hopeless and need fixing. THIS IS THE OLD FAMILIAR STORY YOU HAVE BEEN TELLING YOURSELF.
Well, think about this. Perhaps there is nothing wrong with you! Perhaps the story you are telling yourself is not useful or true. Perhaps the story is just a tired old habit. With mindfulness practice a vast majority of people come to see that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them. They have all the strength, resources and wisdom they need to lead a good and contented life. Even if there are qualities or attributes they would like to develop and strengthen, they have all the tools they need to achieve these goals.
This is wonderful news. It is joyful to begin the journey of getting to know our minds and bodies and how they work together. It is joyful to understand what is going on and what can be done to steer ourselves through life's journey.
Why so joyful? Because we can drop all those heavy loads of guilt, shame, fear, inadequacy, frustration and blame (especially self-blame). We can discover that we don't need fixing because there is nothing that is broken!