The concept of mindfulness is starting to gain traction in our mainstream culture, but what is it? Or, rather, what could it be? We’re not going to go down the mainstream—let’s define what our mindfulness looks like.
We’ll start with—
What it’s not
Our mindfulness is not hocus pocus, airy fairy-ness. It’s not about spending hours meditating and floating off to la-la-land. Meditation can be a part of the story, if that’s the way you roll—but it’s focussed meditation. We’re not trying to lose our minds to sub-consciousness—quite the opposite.
Our mindfulness is not about becoming commune-living gypsies or spiritual gurus—no disrespect intended. But, I think there can be a misconception that mindfulness is a bit hippy-dippy, softly-spoken—weak. Mindfulness is so not weak. It’s about being in charge of our own well-being.
Our mindfulness isn’t religious. And you’ll find that, on the whole, most mindfulness-based practices aren’t religious. Meditation and mindfulness may have their origins in Eastern religions, like Buddhism, but religious thought or practice play no part here—unless you choose for it to be so. We’re all about choice.
Our mindfulness is not about shutting off our thoughts—in fact, no mindfulness is about shutting off thoughts, nor controlling them. It’s about separating from them, realising that we’re not our thoughts—it’s about observing and understanding them. It’s about being able to say thank you, monkey mind, but I’ll take it from here.
Our mindfulness isn’t about zoning out—it’s about honing in. We’re often so busy that we have to take “time out” to recharge. With mindfulness, we can learn to consciously choose what we’re filling our days with, how and why—and begin to live with purpose, with clarity, with meaningful time in, instead of idle time out.
Make our meaning
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the master of mindfulness, says that mindfulness is being present, without judgement, and paying attention.
What does this all mean?
In a nutshell—
Trying not to think so much of the past or future and live now, fully awake (but sleeping well!) and making conscious choices.
It means trying to always be kind to ourselves and others—both in our heads and out loud. Trying not to judge books by their covers or react impulsively.
It means trying to live simply, but fully—with all our senses open to experience, making the most of our time.
You’ll notice there’s a common theme here—
Mindfulness isn’t a magic switch and it’s not a constant energy.
It’s a practice.
Why it’s important
Why mindfulness? Why should we care?
Studies show that we spend 49% of our time lost in thought—that’s half of our lives, lost in our minds.
And, what are our minds thinking of?
Are we dwelling on the past? Absolutely.
Are we worrying for the future? Of course.
Are we beating ourselves up for dwelling on the past and worrying about the future? You bet, we are.
So, that’s half of our lives held hostage to dark thoughts that serve no purpose, other than to make us feel, well—pretty darned crappy, right?
Mindfulness is turning on the light.
When we can change our minds, we can change our lives.
The first change? A foundation of gratitude because we all know that we can do with being a little (or a lot?!) more grateful for this magical thing called life.
The root of joy is gratefulness.
~ David Steindl-Rast