Yes, I know. You can squat 500 pounds, run a marathon in 2 hours, swing a kettlebell like a gorilla, and bike across America in 8 days. You can climb the Nose route on El Capitan in 3 hours and run Copper Canyon with the Tarahumara. You keep a strict Paleo diet, work 16 hours a day and are starting a visionary Internet company in your spare time.
But can you sit in one place for a few minutes and keep your attention on your breath?
Almost certainly not.
Hardly anyone can.
Hardly anyone even tries.
Or if they do try, they give up in short order,
But if you keep at it, you’ll be amazed at what this practice can do for you. Mindfulness meditation has been demonstrated to provide relief from a wide range of afflictions including pain, depression, stress and loneliness. It also contributes to enhanced focus, creativity and performance on a wide variety of tasks.
Unfortunately, many of us like to make mindfulness complicated and write long books about what it is and how it works. This is precisely the wrong approach. Mindfulness should be the simplest of tasks, an elemental challenge like no other.
Thankfully, some people do get it right. In the July 2012 issue of Shambhala Sun, James Ishmael Ford boils the practice down to its basic fundamentals. His instruction:
“Sit down, shut up and pay attention.”
Or, to expand it slightly, “Sit down, shut up and observe your breath and body. When your attention begins to drift, gently put it back on target.”
This is the practice. Repeated re-engagement, over and over and over. Without judgement. Over time, this becomes a foundational, primal skill that we can bring to every other task and challenge in our lives. It is powerful.
So don’t make it complicated.
Just do it.