What does it mean to be MINDFUL? …and almost more importantly, WHY should we practice mindfulness?
We are going to delve into these two questions today and hopefully discover simple ways to practice mindfulness daily. First, I would like to share some background on how and why I began cultivating a mindfulness practice over 12 years ago.
Simply put, I was a mess. I had allowed health issues to cause extra stress and frequent stress reactions in multiple areas of my life. I was not THRIVING. Deep down, I knew something needed to change but was not sure where or how to begin. Then I came across a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness, and everything changed.
I think I read the book cover to cover in two days. Thich Nhat Hanh had provided me with a new perspective. Something that should have been plain to see. Everything we do should have our full attention. Everything.
The book posed a question: “Why do you wash the dishes?” Most people, including myself 12 plus years ago, would answer, “Well, to get them clean, of course!” However, that is not the reason Thich gives us. We “wash the dishes to wash the dishes.” Think about that for a minute.
When washing the dishes, car, or whatever, our focus, our attention, should be on the task at hand, not the outcome. When we only place significance on the outcome, we do not live intentionally in the moment. Instead, we hitch our happiness to an unpredictable future event.
This is the essence of MINDFULNESS. We move through each moment authentically, with intention. Of course, this does not happen overnight. In our fast-paced world, we are inundated with technology that demands our attention, yet our attention spans have dwindled, and our patience eroded away by perceived instant gratification.
Thus, we miss out on the experience. We wind up reminiscing about the past or worrying about the future while our NOW passes us by. Which brings us to our WHY? Why should we be practicing mindfulness? Because the alternative is to live mindlessly in the past or future, to be awash in stress or worry. We have a choice in each moment to be present and aware. But it takes PRACTICE.
We have now arrived at the WHAT. What is a mindfulness practice? Well, it could simply be washing the dishes or attentively listening to a piece of music. It is moving from moment to moment with attention, focus, and intention.
Practice daily. Begin slowly. Pick an activity you enjoy doing and notice if your mind drifts. If your attention wavers, gently refocus your attention back to your activity. Personally, I began with mindful walking. Learning to notice the feeling as each foot makes contact with the ground. Noticing the pattern of my breath while immersed in the sounds of nature. This is still one of my favorite activities- I love being barefoot in order to really experience that contact with the earth! When I can’t go barefoot, I wear Vibram Five Fingers —barefoot feel with sole protection!
How much time do we spend inattentively adrift? Which senses are being ignored when we stare into our phones for hours? What moments are we missing when we ruminate and worry about the future? Mindfulness brings us back to ourselves, back to the moment.
Remember, each moment of our lives is a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime sensory experience.
Try a Breath Awareness meditation and bring balance to your day.