Despite what you may have heard, mindfulness is not a particularly “spiritual” practice. You’re simply noticing what’s going on around and inside you in the present moment without judging it. Instead of the usual human experience of being blindfolded by a constant stream of judgments, worries, regrets, emotions, and conditioned responses, once you become mindful, you start to actually see and participate in the world around you.
Most people I meet seem to think that practicing acceptance will make you either a guilty bystander who colludes with injustice, or a slack-jawed couch potato with drool running down your chin. When I use the word “acceptance” in session, my clients look at me with wide-eyed terror as if I were suggesting they just roll over and die. Clearly, I have some explaining to do.
Like the proverbial frog on the stove, most people don’t realize they’re in a toxic relationship until things have gotten very, very bad. Unlike in a healthy relationship, where conflict gets resolved through open communication, conflict in a toxic relationship triggers destructive, child-like patterns of aggression and passivity, which tend to get worse over time.
Eckhart Tolle says “addiction begins and ends with pain.” More specifically, addiction is a compulsive attempt to escape from pain through a behaviour that brings short-term relief, but over the long term actually adds to the original pain and thus creates more need for the addictive behaviour. This pattern is called the addictive cycle. And it is tremendously destructive.