The Paradox of Mindfulness: Be the Change

The Paradox of Mindfulness: Be the Change

  • October 7, 2013

When we tell ourselves “I’m an idiot”, we feel embarrassed and blush. The more convinced we’re not loved or appreciated, the more we feel sad and cry. The greater the anxiety felt, the harder it is to concentrate. Thoughts impact emotions, emotions impact physiology. Emotions are physiological events that affect our health as powerfully as physical exercise, alcohol, or diabetes. It’s this internal fragmentation between our thoughts, emotions, and body that causes us to feel “broken.” Our thoughts create a cascade of events that lead to such diverse outcomes as resignation vs. resolution, giving up vs. showing up, or seeing obstacles vs. perceiving challenges.

When your sense of self is threatened, emotions become overwhelming and thoughts run out of control. You may say to yourself: “I’m a failure.” “I’ll never get a job. “I’m going to lose everything.” These thoughts lead you into believing you’ll never get back on your feet.

Contrary to blaming your thoughts for the angst and anguish you feel, Buddhist psychology establishes it’s the degree to which you hold onto these thoughts that determines distress. It’s not the thoughts per se, but the relationship to these thoughts that’s the issue.

The antidote then is to learn how to see thoughts skillfully. When you see thoughts as “mental formations,” they are like watching a movie on the screen—you’re in the audience, not posing as the actor. From this detached witnessed perspective, thoughts are events not facts or definitions of who you are. You are then better able to be kind to yourself, focus on what you’re currently doing, and affirm your worth.

While Western psychology focuses on how to make changes, Buddhist psychology focuses on how to develop insight. From clear seeing, change naturally arises. Paradoxically, when not trying to change, change naturally occurs. Mindfulness invites you to “be” the change itself.

When not trying to change,
change naturally occurs

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