Can you count how many times have you have seen the word “Mindfulness?” (Well, if you are the guy I talked to last night, the answer would be zero. Where has HE been, ha!) In the marketing world, they say you have to see something seven times before you register/remember what it is. And I’m sure most of you have seen “mindfulness” at least seven times. Has it registered? Can you really say what it is? Or what it does? I’m guessing most Alexandria Stylebook readers do in fact have a general idea of what Mindfulness is. And maybe it’s something like the following: It allows one to focus, and increases attention; Or, Mindfulness is breathing when feeling anxiety. Or, Mindfulness decreases stress.
But seriously…what does that all mean? And how do you do it? Breathe, pay attention, slow down?
Mindfulness has been defined* as:
Yes, I completely agree with you, even the definition is a bit intimidating. If you are like me, the sentence was easy to read…but you lost focus half way through. And then it was just words, words that seemed to make sense, but then you thought about it, and you realized you were reading on automatic pilot, and you thought…um, uh, what did I just read? So, whether you were able to read it mindfully or not, here it is again, broken down into bite size pieces.
“Mindfulness is [awareness that arises through paying attention], [on purpose] [in the present moment] [non-judgmentally].”
[awareness that arises through paying attention] Being able to focus on what is happening around you.
[on purpose] Choosing to attend to a specific situation (i.e., be in the moment.)
[in the present moment] Focusing on now without your mind wandering.
[non-judgmentally] Be kind to yourself. Be gentle. Don’t judge mistakes.
Mindfulness is not a Utopia, or a fix-all Magic Pill; at the end of the day it is one more tool to add to your “things that help me maintain a balanced and happy life” belt. It is an amazing way to train oneself to move away from pain, suffering, and stress, into a place that includes well-being and overall happiness. Mindfulness teaches us (through repeated training) to identify stress and chaos as it relates to jobs, finances, family (and the many more things we can add to this list). We learn that we can’t run away from it; it attaches to our thoughts and follows us wherever we go. So the trick, the special sauce of Mindfulness, is learning how to change your relationship with all the “things.” The “things” — stimulus — will always be there. But how you relate to the stimulus changes over time.
Mindfulness is a training that occurs when we begin to notice the thoughts we have, and then notice the feelings that comes up, bodily or emotionally. The training comes by practicing, over and over again, to notice. The form of practice that has seen positive outcomes is meditation by focusing on the breath. Not the type of meditation where you try and relax and have no thoughts in your mind (BIG SHOUT OUT HERE: EMPTYING YOUR MIND IS NEXT TO IMPOSSIBLE! HA!). We have thoughts that come and go, constantly.
The instruction for Mindfulness meditation is not to empty the mind, but to NOTICE what is occurring. It is the attending to the thought that is the work, the training. The moment you notice your mind has wandered from your intended focus (i.e., the focus was on your breath — going in and out — and then your mind forgets what it was doing and starts thinking about the project that is due, or the what the heck you are going to eat for dinner, or the fact that you are wearing two different socks), and then you knowingly, purposefully, and without berating yourself, bring your attention back to breathing in and out…that’s the training.
YES. And, no. One reason Mindfulness training seems difficult to ingest is because it is better understood through experiencing it, rather than reading about it. I once read that explaining the true essence of Mindfulness is like trying to explain the taste of chocolate, or what it feels like to be in love (or how decadent a @stomping grounds biscuit is!). The reality is, you do have to actually experience it to understand it. So while it may seem difficult — yes — it becomes less difficult once you get in there and do it!
And for this reason, Alexandria Stylebook is offering an opportunity exclusively for readers to experience mindfulness.
In the month of October and November, for Alexandra Stylebook readers only, Alexandria Stylebook is offering complimentary Mindfulness sessions with me. You may sign up for up to two sessions, and as a an extra thank you, you can bring a friend!
Mindful Junkie, founded by Gina Rollo White, is based in Alexandria, VA, and offers training for the mind and the body. With an emphasis on teaching Mindfulness techniques, Mindful Junkie also teaches Pilates, connecting the circle of the mind and body relationship. Gina currently teaches mindfulness practices across a diverse set of people and environments, including youth, adolescents, adult one-on-one, classrooms, organizations, workshops and retreats.