Community//

The Limitations of Mindfulness — And How to Move Beyond Them

Mindfulness is probably one of the most popular spiritual practices in the mainstream right now. Paying attention to our surroundings encourages us to be more present, and that’s a great thing. But it’s not the whole picture. From my point of view, the pursuit of mindfulness could actually be disconnecting us from the whole picture […]

Mindfulness is probably one of the most popular spiritual practices in the mainstream right now. Paying attention to our surroundings encourages us to be more present, and that’s a great thing. But it’s not the whole picture.

From my point of view, the pursuit of mindfulness could actually be disconnecting us from the whole picture — because it cuts us off from the infinite possibilities available to us in any moment. 

Here’s why.

Limitation #1: Mindfulness requires effort

When we actively try to focus on a moment in time, we can’t help but do that from a place of effort. Then we worry if we’re doing it right, or we get frustrated in case we’re doing it wrong. Our attention wavers and we beat ourselves up — so we have to try harder, and mindfulness becomes a thing we should do, and if we are going to do it we better do it right. Where’s the freedom in that? Where’s the choice in that? 

Limitation #2: Mindfulness invites judgment — and judgment is destructive

Whether you realize it or not you were taught from a young age to judge everyone and everything in your life. You’ve been conditioned to decide whether people, places, behaviors, events, experiences — literally everything you encounter — are good or bad, right or wrong.

In mindfulness, the present moment is observed and labeled. Even labeling a moment with a ‘positive’ judgment like ‘beautiful’, ‘inspiring’ or ‘peaceful’ is still an act of judgment — and judgment shuts down the true possibility of what a moment, person, or experience, could be. More than that, it limits what we can actually receive from that moment, person, or experience. When you have no point of view about anything being right or wrong, good or bad you get to receive everything without having to assign a label.

Limitation #3: Mindfulness prizes the mind above all else

To do mindfulness, attention is required. The mind is required. Humans have a preoccupation with the mind, thinking it’s the greatest gift we’ve got.

 “The mind only allows us to see and experience what it has seen and experienced before.”

What if there’s so much more available to us, more than the mind allows us to see?

What if we can access that by going beyond mindfulness — and into awareness?

The gift of awareness

In awareness, we acknowledge the moment as it is, with no label, no judgment, no projections and no expectations of how something should be or turn out. Everything exists and nothing is judged. We’re willing to see everything — and receive everything. We’re connected to every molecule in the universe.

Rather than only viewing the world through a narrow or focused lens, awareness allows us to see the details and the bigger picture, without having to focus our attention on any of it. It’s when we perceive everything that we have true choice, and true freedom.

3 steps to take you beyond mindfulness and into awareness

1. Recognize how destructive judgment is — and let it go

If we continue to divide the world and our experiences into good, bad, right, and wrong, we’ll continue to cut ourselves off from the infinite possibilities that might just make our lives greater.

Let go of all judgments — about you, about others, about your choices, their choices — and instead start to look at what your choices will create. Rather than wonder if something or someone is right for you, ask, If I choose this, what will my life be like in five years? Get a sense of what comes up — beyond any answers and conclusions.

“What will this choice create?”

2. Be in allowance

This is the space where you truly allow every moment to be as it is no matter what’s going on. Instead of deciding if a situation is good or bad, see it as interesting.

Your plane is late? Interesting.

Your job is under threat? Interesting.

You just met the man or woman of your dreams? Also, interesting!   

Why? Because when you stop seeing everything as good or bad, you get actual clarity on what’s required and what choices are available to you. It’s when we make a judgment that we limit what we can create next.

3. Be engaged — not involved

In mindfulness, we’re involved in a moment. In awareness, we’re engaged in it. Being involved makes it hard to see beyond what we know; engagement allows us to be aware of it all without being involved.

Imagine your friend is trapped down a well and you want to help him get out. Is it better to throw yourself into the well with him and agree how terrible it is, or stay where you are and view the situation from there?

Which option gives you more choice?

If you get into the well with him, you’re involved in the situation. If you stay out of the well, you can be engaged. You have access to all of your capacities and to everything that’s possible — and that’s where you can create a change from.

Mindfulness doesn’t ask us to look beyond what we can perceive — awareness does. That’s the key. Awareness is the space where we have choice, and choice is the source of creation.

What if you functioned from that space of infinite choice and infinite possibility? What could you choose that you haven’t yet chosen?

Is it time to find out?

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

THE UNIVERSAL BENEFITS OF PRACTICING MINDFULNESS WHILE TRAVELING

by Ora Nadrich
Ryan Howes/Getty Images
Wisdom//

The Intersection of Eastern and Western Wisdom Helps Conquer Anxiety

by Ryan Howes

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.