The best things in life are free, and true as well is its corollary, that the best ideas for living a good life are also free. Like a good oak desk, it’s not the choice of surface that confuses you, it’s the varnish, which is neither free nor simple or even for that matter necessary.
To wit, exercise and eat right and you will lose weight, save money in an index fund and your investments will be in the best shape, and always, always, follow the instructions which come with the box. For psychological health, a major impediment to happiness is cognitive perseveration, or the insoluble distractions, worries, and regrets that populate our days. Escaping cognitive perseveration is hard, since once you’ve entered a spate of worry or regret, or bounding between distractive social media for that matter, you can’t easily be rid of it because they are affectively compelling states. Avoiding cognitive perseveration is another matter and is done by consistently restricting your thoughts to the present moment, so that it is impossible for idle what-if thoughts to segue into worry, anger, or regret. That is what mindfulness is, just thinking in the present, and its results are relaxation and a feeling of equanimity.
Easy enough, but not easy to do for long, as we just can’t keep it up for more than a few hours at a time because the world beckons us to think of our futures, both real and imagined. And that is where the varnish of psychological hokum comes in, which implies that the keys for 24-hour nonstop bliss is just a seminar, self-help video, book, or training session away. And that’s nonsense, as nothing can stave off the fact that mindfulness can be boring.
Mindfulness is important, if we understand that like all things, it is useful in proportion, and we can get along with it, and life, quite well without paying for psychological varnish, as the best things in life, and how to live, are indeed free.
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