Let’s talk about one of the biggest mental health buzzwords floating around right now: mindfulness. We all hear how we should be practicing mindfulness in our daily lives. It’s the key to staying content, being healthy, and living a long life. It will change your life!
Or so they say. I mean, how is eating an orange super slowly going to help me manage my illness?
Basically, mindfulness feels like some weird little thing therapists and friends throw around when we talk about our unending depression or inability to feel anything. Like somehow that orange is going to save me. What even is this mindfulness thing anyway?
Unraveling the Mystery of Mindfulness
The day I returned from the hospital was the start of a long road of recovery. Of course, by recovery I mean getting to a point of relative stability, but that’s neither here nor there. From that day, I resolved to take my mental health seriously and set out to learn everything I could about how to manage it.
As is natural, I found a lot of different resources and suggestions (because Google…ya know), but a lot of them seemed baffling to me. At the top of that list was the strange creature that is mindfulness. It is touted as the key to a happy and long life, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t want that? So I dove in, determined to master this mystery.
I found resource after resource that promised to give me the tools needed to be an expert in this new skill, but for the most part they seemed like weird mystical mumbo jumbo. Wash dishes mindfully. Okay…what does that mean? Each an orange mindfully. Okay….what does that mean yet again?
According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” (quote found here) In practice, that means not thinking about the future or the past, but just existing in the current moment. You’ll find it in those random moments between all the worrying and planning – the moments where you are just looking around you, listening and relaxed.
Yeah, it’s way easier said than done.
Truth is, mindfulness isn’t something you can just pull out of thin air just because you want to. It takes practice. It takes awareness and patience and maybe just a little bit of luck.
That said, we actually have moments of mindfulness all the time, but we don’t usually notice them. Alas, part of being mindful is just being present and not thinking about past or future. That doesn’t usually record automatically to memory, or at least not in any noticeable sense. But, trust me, it happens.
Part of the mystery of mindfulness is that inability to notice it. After all, how can you be mindful if you’ve never seen it? Those who practice meditation might have less of a struggle, but I know it felt impossible for me when I first started trying.
And then I realized…
Those times where I just sit in the shade and watch the trees move are moments of mindfulness. When I get in the shower and just let the water relax my back, I’m only thinking about the feel of the water and how much easier I can breathe. That’s also mindfulness. And once I identified it, it got easier to notice other times like:
- riding in the car and watching the corn crops rush by
- Sitting on the porch watching the kids run around like crazy
- laying in bed under big fluffy covers feeling the warmth
These moments are the ones that feel comfortable and peaceful. We’re not worrying about What’s happening later today or all the things we’ve screwed up in the past. We’re just relaxing. Therein lies the key to unlocking the mystery.
Mastering the Mystery – A Challenge
Take a moment and reflect on times where you might have already experienced this mindful peace. Is it when you hear your favorite song? Or maybe when you smell and taste your favorite food (like an orange, maybe)? For every person it’s different, which is why I can’t give you an answer.
Those moments are there, though, I promise. Our goal is to notice them. Once we can do that, we finally have the keys to unlock our mystery of mindfulness.
By the way, once you’ve found your inner zen, share it with us! You might help someone else discover their own inner quiet, and honestly, that’s what life is about!