Like many internally-focussed introverts, I have a rich interior world. But I also have a tendency to overthink and fantastrophize.

So, after learning there’s scientific evidence that mindfulness training can change brain chemistry and promote greater calmness, I decided to try to develop greater mindfulness.

First I listened to mindfulness audiobooks. It was probably not a good sign that I got impatient and listened at triple speed. Chipmunk voices are surprisingly non-conducive to attaining a higher mental state. Also, it’s easy to miss things at that speed, and then you find yourself asking, What did Alvin say?

Next I tried breathing exercises. For some reason I could not master these. As breathing falls into the category of ‘a baby could do it’, literally, you’d think I’d be able to achieve some level of proficiency. But no. I would simply get lightheaded and tense and would need to serve myself a large portion of chocolate to recover.

Finally I downloaded an app, paid for an entire year’s subscription, and committed to a daily practice. I completed a session every morning before breakfast, sitting on the floor by my bed in half-lotus position, occasionally screaming at Craig to be quiet so I could be more serene and centred.

I did my practice faithfully every day for 9 months. I listened to the instructions. I followed the breath.

Some days it was okay and I felt like maybe I was getting the hang of it.

Mostly though, I felt like a failure. And over time I found I was feeling more tense, not less.

So finally, after more than 9 months, I decided to give up.

The next day when I awoke, I immediately felt a sense of relief.

I was happier – possibly because there was now a shorter time between waking up and ingesting coffee.

I also had more time for my morning routine – breakfast, crossword, French exercises, writing pages in my cahier – which made my mornings more relaxed.

I also felt – I kid you not – a greater sense of mindfulness. Just in a small way, little thoughts like:

I know that I am making the bed.
I am aware of how good this brownie tastes.
Those trees are a beautiful shade of green.

It was almost as though, by completing the practice each day, I had been shunting all my mindfulness into that little window. It was like doing a 30-minute exercise class and thinking that meant I could avoid stairs and segway everywhere and get a robot to bring me snacks.

It’s not unlike the feeling I had when I realised that holding onto to things for later was stopping me taking action now. A sense that a potentially good thing was undermining a better thing.

I had failed at the daily practice, but succeeded at having little flashes of mindfulness.

Now let me be clear…

I’m not saying mindfulness exercises are ineffective.

I’m not even saying they wouldn’t work for me.

Maybe all those months of meditating have in fact changed my brain chemistry and I’m now reaping the benefits.

All I am saying is that I didn’t like the way it was feeling to continue the mindfulness practice, and I feel a whole lot better after giving it up.

And I share my experience with you in case you too are a mindfulness-practice failure. Take heart that you are not alone.

Maybe instead you can enjoy the extra time, notice the green of the trees, be aware of making the bed when you are making the bed.

And really, really enjoy that brownie.

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