Mindfulness. A force to be reckoned with!

In John Katat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living is a phrase, “you don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.” This to me suggests that to begin mindfulness training you have to use will power or force to initiate the process. I have often likened this to “Strive on with diligence.” Using the sheer will of mind in directing intention to initiate a process. “Tuning the strings of a lute” rings with the same harmony. Larry Rosenberg talks about the kyosaku, the stick of compassion, the requested use of physical force to bolster vigor and align mental factors in practice. Gunaratana says to use skillful effort to drive out unwholesome toxins.

Practice by forceful means. Any thoughts on this topic?

There is a factor in the path to deal with this and it is called right effort… :man_shrugging:


This phrase reminds me of something I heard from Leah Remini talking about when she learned the secret teachings of Scientology:

Leah: “Supervisor comes over he goes,”
Supervisor: “What don’t you understand?”
Leah: “I understand it, I just, I don’t love it. I’m not happy. I’m not happy that this is what is was.”
Supervisor: “Well, you don’t need to believe it, you just need to do it
Leah: “So that’s the answer that’s given to you; ‘you don’t need to understand it, you just need to do it’”
Leah Remini on Finding Out About Xenu (from Joe Rogan Experience #908)

I understand this isn’t quite the same thing, but it almost sounds like a “fake it 'til you make it” policy. I feel like forcing myself to meditate when I don’t want to meditate will be off-putting. It would lead me to dislike my meditation sessions, and I don’t think I would keep the charade up for long.

I think the first step is changing my mind to where I want to meditate. For me this started with dukkha, and wanting to rid my mind of stress, anxiety and depression. This alone gave me the motivation to meditate. I also want to reduce the harm that I cause others because of my selfish/egoic reaction to events, etc. The realization that as I treat other people better, they treat me better in return is additional motivation. Motivation can be difficult to find at first, but now it feels like a snowball rolling downhill, picking up more speed and snow as it tumbles down the hill.


Thanks, that’s quite funny.

I think you may be missing the point of JKZ’s statement. This is directed at first timers starting a clinical mindfulness course for anxiety, stress, depression etc, people who would find it very difficult to practice at all.

My point is that by forcing the initial, very first, practices of mindful training, a neural pathway initializes and is subsequently built upon. This would take a great deal of effort and commitment even for a few minutes. This striving, force and effort is important to get the ‘snowball rolling’. Of course there is the stick of compassion if all else fails.

1 Like

According to the Gradual Training, practice starting with dana, sila, then bhavana. I didn’t understand it, and it’s hard for me to trace the origins of why I begin practicing, but I did. I would say it’s a combination of exposure, relatedness, building up of faith, curiosity, getting onto the sitting cushion, more dosage of dukkha, and finally becoming a serious learner.

Everyone learns differently and the Sangha supports that, but we gotta start somewhere, become ready and create sustainable conditions for practicing. I agree that mindfulness by itself is a force to be reckoned with, being 7th of the Noble Eightfold Path and 1st of 7 factors of enlightenment, before samadhi. Although it’s hard to understand as a beginner, with appropriate practice over time develops skill & insight. Just do it!

So yeah, totally agree with putting in right effort. "These are roots of trees, these are empty huts. Meditate, bhikkhus, do not be negligent, lest you regret it later. This is our instruction to you.” - SN 43.44

1 Like

I suppose I’m just opposed to the word forcing, but I see what you are saying. Something has to get the ball rolling.

In the carrot vs stick analogy, forcing sounds more like a stick than a carrot. I’ve always been a stubborn mule who doesn’t take kindly to the stick. But give me one carrot…


I think it might just be one of those psychological tricks maybe? So the patient has a chronic illness, but has an objection to the treatment - “I don’t like it”, and the doctor takes away the objection - “You don’t have to like it, just swallow the medicine”, and so the patient takes it and then later sees the value of the medicine (if it starts to work) and so they begin to look forward to taking it. Maybe?

1 Like

Thanks. It’s more a case of say being unfit and you want to get fit but to start training needs a push. You ain’t going to like it but just do it. Difficult and painful.

1 Like

i’ll just say that as I was waking up this morning, for no reason whatsoever, this book title occurred to me for the first time in, well, i couldn’t say, but a long time. Coincidence? Probably!

1 Like

It’s your supernatural powers.

1 Like

In my opinion, this use of “will” has to be imbued with wisdom so as not to generate aversion toward unwholesome mental states. It is a subtlety within right effort that is worth highlighting. This wisdom forms the basis of right view and is not unsurprisingly the first component of the 8-fold path. It is helpful if wisdom in some form (even the beginner level) informs the path from the earliest stages.


Have found a pretty good text that reflects what I’m pursuing here. With ‘right’ desire and resolve etc. Force of will or better described as the cultivation and alignment of the ‘right’ mental factors.

‘Mindfulness of the Gatekeeper’ by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.