‘Non-goal-orientated, remaining unattached to outcome or achievement’
(Shapiro et al 2015: 11)
‘in the meditative domain, the best way to achieve your goals is to back off from striving for results and instead to start focusing carefully on seeing and accepting things as they are, moment by moment.
This attitudinal approach very much captures the spirit of mindfulness, though may appear difficult when applying to other aspects of daily life. It relates to the state of ‘being’ of mindfulness, as opposed to the state of ‘doing’ which applies in other aspect of life.
As soon as we strive for an outcome we are immediately going into a different state, recalling what we think we are supposed to be like, building images and stories of what it should be like and then testing our current state against this, planning to fill the gaps and striving to make things happen to change, all the while monitoring and reviewing progress. Whilst all of this may have its value and use, it is not being mindful. In seeking to become more mindful we are to some degree seeking to let go of the usual striving and goal orientation.
Striving is about taking action to change things rather than being with what is. It brings to practice and life the need to fix things, to make them better, to change whatever, to escape from how things are. In mindfulness meditation we aim to let things be how they are, experience them for how they are, not striving to change them. There is nothing else to be. In some ways this is a paradox in that generally practicing something is aimed at getting better or doing it differently. But that is not what is aimed at here.
This can sometimes be clearer if we link the idea of grasping with that of striving. Sometimes it is this idea of grasping at something, striving to achieve it that can give a sense of effort, or forcing things to be a different way or straining to achieve.
Ultimately, we can find ourselves getting wrapped up in the striving to create something different from what is, be so busy with the plans, assessments, ideas and so forth going on in our heads that we fail to be with what is present here and now in our lives.
In meditation practice, this could be seen as practicing without practicing. Practicing without trying to achieve anything. The open awareness or choiceless awareness meditation could be seen as an interesting practice (or not) in this respect.
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. (2013) Full Catastrophe Living. Kindle edition: Little Brown Book Group.
Shapiro, S.L. and Carlson, L.E. (2015) The Art and Science of Mindfulness. London: American Psychological Association