What Mindfulness IS and ISN’T

It is difficult to go a day without hearing some reference to the term “mindfulness”.  It is thrown about like verbal popcorn.  Mindfulness is an extraordinarily useful tool and/or practice but it is often misunderstood.

I prefer to explain Mindfulness as the practice of being grounded in one’s body and completely submersed, via one’s sensory system, in the here-and-now of an experience.  It is about being present focused, which typically means on the environment and/or sensations within the body.  Though the word includes M-I-N-D, I view it as actually getting out of one’s head.

Mindfulness helps anchor you into your present moment and allows for one to experience it in its entirety.  It is useful in avoiding looping (negative) patterns of thought.  It allows for one to fully enjoy an experience, assuming it is pleasurable in nature.  Thus, it can be very calming and leave one feeling contented. We spend much of our time in the automatic piloting of our days, completely disconnected from the full range of experience. We pass from one thing to another to yet another.  Mindfulness can assist us in being more present and focused at a specific time and may result in what feels like a slowing of time.

I often hear the term used in a manner that suggests that people should utilize Mindfulness to reframe negative experiences or emotions into positive ones. Absolutely not. It is unfair and ineffective to try and convince yourself that something is great when it feels awful.  You CAN use Mindfulness to re-focus on activities that DO bring you joy, whether it be sitting in your garden, listening to your favorite song, or taking a hot shower.

Mindfulness also relates to your engagement in the task not just doing something for the sake of doing it. Example, how many times do you shower while looping your ‘to do’s’ in your head?  What if you were to close your eyes, feel the hot water on your skin, inhale the scent of your favorite soap, and listen to the water hit the floor under your feet?  That type of awareness provides a completely different experience and that is, in essence, the true definition of Mindfulness.  It is a slowing down of our process, a focus on our sensory experience, and the result is often increased joy and relaxation.

We often hold unfair expectations of ourselves, delaying joyful activities until our (never ending) to do list is completed.  This can be really draining.  I encourage everyone to step outside the normal daily grind, for 15 minutes a day, and truly practice the wonderful art of Mindfulness.  Choose an activity that YOU enjoy and fully engage.  Take note of the impact it has on you and I hope that in itself will encourage you to continue in its practice.

 

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