Is mindfulness goal-orientated? Below is a transcript of the conversation presented by Brighton Mindfulness Centre, where Jon Wilde and Andy Darling are interviewed by Gerard Evans and discuss the question ‘Is mindfulness goal-orientated?’. The full one-hour video can be accessed by clicking here for our main Mindfulness FAQ page. Other Mindfulness questions are answered in this and other videos on this site.
Gerard: This leads us rather nicely into Amy from Nottingham asking, I have read that mindfulness is not a goal-orientated practice. Oriented/orientated?
Andy: The Americans say oriented.
Jon: Anyway it’s not. Mindfulness is not a goal-orientated practice. What’s wrong with having goals, any football fan would ask. From a mindfulness point of view I’d say nothing wrong with having goals, but let’s be aware of the potential danger in becoming too attached to those goals. I’ll give you like an everyday example, I was walking down the street a little bit earlier, and I’m a single man so I’m allowed to think these thoughts. I thought wouldn’t it be nice to be married to Natalie Imbruglia, the pop star of ‘Torn’, and a lovely looking lady and all the rest of it.
Andy: No one could deny that.
Jon: It was a fleeting thought and it came and it went and no harm done. And I’m sure Natalie, as we speak, is not on the phone to a solicitor or any of that caper. Anyway, it would be very different scenario if I thought, well, now I’ve had this thought, I really must marry Natalie Imbruglia. So I start hanging outside her house. You know, hanging around outside her house or ringing the bell and waking her up and she comes down and explains that it’s not going to happen.
Gerard: You have clearly put quite a bit of thought into this.
Jon: So the fleeting thought about Nancy Imbruglia is no danger at all. It doesn’t put anyone in any kind of peril. But if I am to follow through on that, obviously it does.
Andy: I will give you another instance, I remember years and years ago, back in 1992 it would be. I remember Rick Buckler the drummer of the Jam, so this is the first time the song had gone straight in the chat number one since 1973 when they did it on the band. Rick Buckler was asked, you must be so delighted by this. He simply said no i got to do it again. And there you have it. That can be the trouble with over attaching to goals. Got to keep doing. Football these days when you win something, immediately even before the tournament there’s a new manager who’s going to be — that people talk about a new manager who will come in seems that tournament is over. There’s no time and space, there is no joy in that.
Gerard: Billionaires who think I haven’t got enough money because someone has got a little bit more.
Andy: Yeah. Some sorrows are what will be called in the Buddhist world. It’s just a roundabout. It goes round and round and round.
Jon: I’m sure most of us are familiar with the feeling of really desiring somebody and then…
Andy: Is on your mind a lot today this desire.
Jon: We tell ourselves if only if only I could go out with that person I’d be the happiest man alive. So a chance will dance you end up going out with this person and you find after a few weeks, actually you’re not as happy as you thought you were after a few months you might find yourself completely and utterly miserable. And you might find yourself thinking well hang on a sec. Why isn’t she making me happy? Why isn’t she? Because I had all this worked out in my mind. If I got to go out with her not only would I make her happy? I’d make myself happy too.
Now that’s an example of an attachment to a goal. Now when we apply this to meditation this is where the real and I think this is one of the most subtle teachings in mindfulness. And I think it’s one of them the most difficult areas in a way because it’s quite difficult to actually pin it down. When we set out the first thing I should say is there’s a difference. We can talk about this in terms of meditation as a whole and then we can talk about a meditation.
Anyone who begins minute meditation is going to have some kind of goal or hopefully within after six months of this I’m going to feel a little bit lighter a little less anxious. That’s one aspect of it but if you go into a meditation thinking. I’m going to meditate now and in twenty minutes I expect to be blitzed out. Well how are you going to feel if you do if you don’t come out that blitzed out? You are going to feel that you’ve let yourself down or you’re not doing it right that sort of. This is yet another failure of my life. And so in that way we can turn meditation into another form of striving very very easily.
Andy: Yeah. And just on the blissed out front that gain is a notion that a lot of people have. That’s the aim to become blissed out. Zoned out, dissociated and so on. Over attaching to goals.
Jon: Yes, so coming into meditation or a meditation with the idea that we are going to be with whatever arises. That whatever arises. Can we be with the boredom and the frustration as much as the joy? Because that’s really the age that we’re working in.
Gerard: I think people might come back if you say that to them. If you are done meditating and say well I’m with things anyway. What’s the difference when you are meditating? What is being with something in a mediation and mindfulness as opposed to just being with something without any of that?
Jon: I have heard it said that the vast majority of us don’t actually experience life. We experience our own nervous systems. All we’re basically experiencing is our interpretation of reality. Because all we’re doing is thinking about it. All we’re doing is processing what we’re seeing and hearing and we are not actually experience. We’re not having a direct experience of that thing so direct to the point where we almost feel perhaps that we are at war with that. That us and the thing that’s been experienced is simply one experience.
Andy: Yeah it’s an interesting part we’re experiencing our central nervous systems. Because when we start thinking or when we really just overly latch on to our thoughts. We’re producing stress hormones; cortisol, you know adrenaline to a terrible degree. And that coerce our experience. There is some much more to a bit like, pretty pictures. If you look at it one way, it’s all Russian peasant woman. If you look at it another way it’s a French woman dancing. And when we’re just rooted in this way of thinking there’s only one route. In fact there are simultaneously both. And mindfulness practice helps that.