I'm about to say something a little controversial. Ready? The very mention of the word 'mindfulness' gets my back up. Before you hop straight to the comments to tell me about how utterly ridiculous and short sighted I'm being, hear me out.
I have borderline personality disorder, which occasionally morphs into depression. It's not pretty. Self care goes out the window. I wash only as and when necessary. I eat whatever happens to be lurking at the back of the kitchen presses. I spend inordinate amounts of time staring at nothing, while simultaneously berating myself for it. Fleecy jammies are my attire of choice, and if I could avoid getting dressed at all, I would. At best, I could be described as apathetic, at worst, a non-functioning sorry excuse for a human being. Like I said, not pretty.
So what does this have to do with mindfulness? Quite a lot actually. On a recent twitter chat about identity and borderline personality disorder, a little debate started up about the efficacy of mindfulness colouring. I've been using an adult colouring book since just before Christmas, and I absolutely love it (although I've also been known to take my five year old's colouring books). I get stuck in, my brain switches off, and away I go. I'm not conscious of practicing mindfulness, I'm simply enjoying the break from the oftentimes relentless tirade that is my inner monologue.
But here's the thing. If the word 'mindfulness' appeared on the cover of that book, it's quite likely I would never have picked it up. I have an almost pathological habit of furiously resisting anything I'm told will be helpful for me. Mindfulness is right at the very top of that list. It's become what CBT was a few years ago - the great cure all. If I could just incorporate more mindfulness into my day then all would be well...
I think it's the label that bothers me. I get incredible peace from colouring, walking by water, taking photos of the Connemara landscape around me, yoga... any of these could probably could be considered a form of mindfulness. But when it becomes a 'thing', a requirement, something that has to be done, then it changes. It's something else to go on a list, and even the shortest list can seem insurmountable in the depths of a depressive episode.
I like to do things because they make me feel good. What I don't like is when they become almost prescribed. We regularly hear how any of us can make ten minutes in our day to meditate, and that may well be true, but assigning it a time, a space, particularly when there are jobs and small people to contend with, never mind the huge barrier that is mental illness, is making it an ordeal (in my humble opinion). On the rare occasions that I have committed to a mindfulness practice, I've tended to get interrupted half way through for one reason or another, which invariably leaves me in a worse position than had I not started at all.
But the times I head out for a walk with no expectations, no route in mind, are the times I will come back feeling the best. When I pick up my colouring pencils with no aim other than to make marks on paper, that is when I relax most. The more I strive to be mindful, the more it eludes me. I find peace in my own way. Maybe that is mindfulness? Whatever it is, it works, so please don't label it for me!