Mindfulness Misconceptions

By Madison Gardner

Have you been unsure about or struggling with mindfulness? Maybe you have heard about it recently but don’t really understand what the hype is all about, or maybe you have been trying to establish a regular practice but it just isn’t working. Often certain beliefs or misconceptions about mindfulness can get in the way or make people apprehensive about starting.

Let’s address some of these.

“I’m not a Buddhist; can I even practice mindfulness?”

You do not have to hold a particular religious belief to practice mindfulness. Though mindfulness has a rich history in Buddhist practice, today, it is a secular practice. You can integrate mindfulness into your own religious practices, like prayer, or keep it completely separate.

“I don’t know what I am supposed to feel when I meditate. I don’t think I am doing it right.”

There is no particular sensation or emotion that is supposed to happen during mindful meditation. It is a subjective experience that changes and grows from your practice. Depending on the individual and the technique, some may feel alert and excited, while others feel tired and slow. A better measure of mindfulness is how it changes as you continue. Maybe you notice that you respond differently than before or are better at catching your wandering mind.

“I can’t sit completely still for that long, so I wouldn’t be good at mindfulness.”

Movement and fidgeting are very common during mindful practice. If you are meditating you can change your position to be more comfortable. For example, you may choose to lie down or sit upright during your meditation practices. If sitting is too difficult, movement-based mindfulness activities like mindful exercise, walking meditations, mindful stretching, and more may be great options for you. 

“My mind is always racing; I’ve never been able to completely clear my mind.”

It is normal for your mind to wander or for you to get distracted. Mindful practice is about acknowledging that it has wandered and bringing your awareness back to your breath and the meditation practice. Mindfulness is like a bicep curl exercise. Each time your mind wanders it is like moving the weight down away from your shoulder, and when you bring the awareness back to the breath or other sensations in your body during a meditation, that is like lifting the weight up towards your shoulder. So each time your mind is distracted away from the meditation, you are given another opportunity to strengthen the mindfulness “muscle” by bringing your attention back to the meditation. 

“I don’t want to meditate all the time, are there other ways I can still be mindful?”

Meditation is just one form of mindfulness, as mindfulness practice can happen anytime and anywhere. In addition, there are informal mindfulness practices where you bring your awareness into the present moment by noticing one or more of your five senses during any activity that you are doing.

“Isn’t this just another form of relaxation?”

Mindfulness can be very relaxing for some, but not always and not for everyone. Mindfulness may be more challenging based on the technique used or if any difficult emotions arise during the practice. Learning to sit with difficult emotions and the varying techniques can be learned through self-study or through the instruction of others through skills-based courses. 

Find out more about mindfulness courses offered through The Center for Mindfulness & CBT through the website: Courses – Center For Mindfulness & CBT (mindfulstl.com)