The Dark Side of Mindfulness

Guest Writer Kristen Wolfram, Montana

As an on-again-off-again mindfulness practitioner for a dozen years there are plenty of times I’ve fallen off the sit wagon, and plenty of times I’ve questioned what the hell I’m doing spending my time sitting. Thanks to the genius of RisingFalling, in January I finished up a 6-month intensive class that confirmed a long-held suspicion of mine that mindfulness can expand far beyond just the sitting! But if you think that is a way to get you off the hook of a regular practice, I can tell you this is not a free pass.

However, it is an invitation to discuss what April, Shady Ape co-founder, and I have lately called the dark side of mindfulness. Given that mindfulness often asks of us to attend to that which is right in front of us, sometimes that which is right in front of us is so intensely unpleasant there is a want to run away - to do exactly the opposite of staying present, sitting with it and working through it. As my practice has deepened I do find that the benefits go far beyond just my sits.

There is a different perspective with which I approach the world. A filter that is almost, at this point, impossible to turn off. Thus, the dark side of mindfulness, by which I mean there is potentially a point to turn away, distract and numb. Because I have, for better or worse, committed my life to inquiry, curiosity and now-ness, I’ve come to find out it can be very hard to turn off and tune out.

So, as of late, I’ve given myself permission to not engage in inquiry, meaning-making and curiosity about every thought and experience in my life. I have come to find out, being mindful all the damned time, kind of stole my ability to BE present. Instead I was so busy analyzing what my Ego and conditioning were up to that, in fact, I forgot completely to just be.

Consider this your friendly reminder that it is okay to put The Practice down now and then. Not every thought or action has a deeper meaning other than what it is. So you made a mistake, your Ego was an asshole? Oh well, good job being human.