Mindfulness: What’s all the Hype?
Mindfulness is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1 : the quality or state of being mindful
2 : the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis; also : such a state of awareness
So, what does that mean, exactly? And why is everyone talking about it?
Practicing mindfulness is directly related to a more positive, more peaceful, and less stressed life. Just a few minutes of mindfulness on a consistent basis has potentially life-changing results.
So how do I do it? How do I practice mindfulness? Do I have to sit down in a perfectly quiet space with my eyes closed in an uncomfortable position? No!
All that is required for mindfulness is what the definition suggests: be aware of the moment, in the moment as it is happening, with non-judgment. Non-judgement here is key!
Reality is what it is. It is neither good, nor bad, it simply is. Our judgments are made up by our brains. Judgment is very helpful when it comes to survival as a species. Judgments such as “That cliff looks scary,” or “That person looks attractive,” have been great for continuing our genetic lines, but judgments such as “My life is crappy,” or “I’m the greatest,” not so much.
But wait, why are positive judgments bad? In a world focused on “Think Positive! Be Optimistic!”, there is so much pressure to be happy. When you are not feeling happy, sometimes the worst thing you can do is try to be happy. There is nothing wrong with feeling unhappy. Unhappiness is just as natural as happiness. Mindfulness helps us accept things as they are. Mindfulness helps us lean into the uncomfortable emotions rather than run from them. By fighting the natural state, rather than accepting the state we are in with nonjudgment, we begin to let our emotions be in charge, rather than us overseeing our emotions.
If you’re interested in giving mindfulness a go, try this: Allow yourself about ten minutes of time with no phones, no electronics, etc. Distractions will happen, and they do not ruin your practice but rather it helps you to cultivate patience. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position, whatever that is for you. Focus on how you are breathing. Just notice. Try to notice how you breathe without necessarily changing how you breathe at first. After a few breaths, try elongating the breath, focusing on creating a long, smooth and steady exhale. Avoid pushing yourself past what is physically comfortable. Do this for a cycle of as many times as you’d like. It can be five inhales and exhales or it can be 20 inhales and 20 exhales. Notice at the end of this if your thoughts are calmer. Notice if your mind feels settled. Notice if you feel more connected to your body. Just notice, avoid judging. If you find yourself in a fuss and feeling like it’s impossible to feel those things, try again tomorrow. Some days mindfulness is easy, some days it is not. It is what it is. Some days no matter how hard you try, the mind will not quiet, and other days the mind is still as a pond. Some days your time is up in no time and other days it seems to drag on forever. The practice itself is enough to do the good work. There is no being “good” or “bad” at meditation. Just show up, try to stay mindful, and try to stay nonjudgmental.
Love & Light,