A Gaining Idea

A wise Zen master once said that if you have a gaining idea in your meditation practice, you have a problem. Mindfulness is about being, although pop culture sells it as a way to become. You want to practice mindfulness to become better than you are. So, what is wrong with that?

I once asked meditation teacher Lisa Ernst how she answers that question. She said, “I tell my students to leave their goals at the mat.” Your goals will get you to the mat, she explained, but once on the mat, the practice is simply about being with yourself and your life as it is.

You can only start where you are to get where you are going, and so you must know and accept where you are in order to see a path. Then, keeping your wheels on the tracks, and returning them to the tracks as necessary along the way, are the present moment tasks. That is how we get things done. This is mindfulness in real time, in your daily life. Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck calls it Everyday Zen.

Our capacity to conceptualize the future is part of what makes us human. Our species would not have survived without the ability to anticipate. And yet we would not have survived by spending too much time in our heads, perpetually wishing for life to be different than it is, or living in regret for mistakes we have made. The balance of imagining a future, learning from the past, and accepting what is true in the moment, is a prescription for real growth and meaningful action.

Living well with ADHD is neither about striving just to keep your head above water, nor perfecting your brain in order to perfect your life. It is about acceptance (of your brain and your life) so you can actualize your vision with your good enough brain. Someone at last night’s ADHD support group suggested that because we do many things exceptionally well, but don’t do everything exceptionally well, we believe we are never good enough. We are not measuring up, even to our own expectations.

When you are mindfully engaged in activity related to your vision, good enough is enough. When you are busy rejecting or perfecting your brain, it is never good enough.

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