The Honest Guide to Meditation

I like most of Leo Babauta’s work, but this one disappointed me. He titled it The Honest Guide to Mindfulness, but a more apt title would have been The Honest Guide to Meditation — because he talked about nothing else. Meditation, though, is a practice some have used to become more mindful, not the goal itself, and by no means the epitome of mindfulness.

My favorite explanation of mindfulness came from an episode of Back to Work, in which Merlin Mann described it as the ability to watch cars go by without feeling the need to jump in. The patent absurdity of this analogy made the value of mindfulness value clear, when he explained that the cars symbolized our emotions: temporary, quick to change, and far too often dictated by people and situations over which we have no control. The goal of mindfulness — which, again, some have found through meditation — is not to do the impossible, to wrestle back from a chaotic world command over those cars, but rather to regain control of the one actor in that scenario you have any hope of influencing: yourself.

You will never control which cars come, when they go by, or who drives them, but you can — with practice — learn to control their ability to hijack your life. An honest guide to that, real mindfulness, may have done some good.