What IS Mindfulness?

When I sat down to write about mindfulness, I had this overwhelming feeling sweep over me. Mindfulness is a huge topic to unpack. I mean, people have written entire books on it.

My ego was shouting at me: Who are you to write about such a topic? You’ve only been practicing mindfulness for a short amount of time. You’ve only scratched the surface. This is way over your head, girlfriend. Pick a different topic. This is too hard.

I somehow managed to push through and wrote a rough draft. Once I write something, I like to let it soak for a day or two. I’ll come back to it and then massage it a bit more. It’s a lengthy process but it’s really the only way I can feel good about my work.

Between the soaking and the massaging (sorry for the spa analogies here), I began to line up some of my podcasts for the week. One of my favorite podcasts is 10% Happier with Dan Harris. To my surprise, he had interviewed Jon Kabat-Zinn earlier this month. During my research from just a few days ago, I read a brief paragraph about him. Jon Kabat-Zinn is known for westernizing mindfulness. In 1979, he launched a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Since then, there have been thousands of studies that document the physical and mental benefits of practicing mindfulness. I immediately listened to the podcast with an electric current running through my body. If this wasn’t synchronicity – I don’t know what is.

That night, I sat down to have dinner with my friend. I had just finished the podcast on the way to the restaurant and was really eager to discuss it with someone. So over dinner, I brought up the topic of mindfulness and some of the points that Jon Kabat-Zinn had discussed. My friend immediately shot it down. Kind of shocked, I put my fork down and looked at him. He had this total look of disgust on his face. I thought maybe he didn’t like the food he ordered. Maybe he took too big of a bite. Too much hot sauce? Nope. He said “I’m sorry, I just don’t see the value in all of this podcast, meditation, crystal, mindfulness crap. If it really works and it’s spreading, I don’t see it. I just don’t see it.”

Part of my old self began to rise. I wanted to get upset.

I wanted to eat the rest of his french fries just to spite him.

My heart felt heavy. I tend to feel like a failure as a communicator when someone doesn’t agree with me and especially when someone doesn’t see the value in the work I’m doing. I took a breath and quickly realized that this was all my ego talking. I called it out immediately and said “Hush child. You don’t get to come out a play tonight.”

We continued our discussion for a bit longer by tossing the ball back and forth. Despite our differences, we ended the night on a good note.

Driving home that night I had this realization that I needed to have that conversation with my friend. More specifically, I needed to have that conversation with my friend about that podcast. Maybe the Universe or some divine power had me lineup up my podcasts that afternoon and just happen to scroll past the interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn. Maybe I was supposed to get dinner that night with this specific friend.

All of those situations combined is the quintessential essence of what mindfulness is. It was The Universe’s way of saying “So you wanna be mindful huh? You wanna write about being mindful?  Alright. Cool. Then BE mindful!”

Mindfulness is, to me, being aware that there is something greater than us working with us to provide answers and guidance. It’s being present enough to have difficult conversations with a friend and realize that neither one of you is right or wrong. It’s realizing that not everyone is not going to see value or purpose in the work that you do but if it’s bringing you peace and joy, then keep doing it. It’s settling into the moment and even if it’s a bit uncomfortable, having enough trust to know that the uneasiness you’re feeling is exactly what you need. Mindfulness is being present, conscious and aware all in the same moment, as often as possible.

Mindfulness can be difficult to expound. The definition of mindfulness can vary but they all go a little something like this:

Being present in the moment by remaining aware of our thoughts, physical sensations, and our environmental surroundings.

Mindfulness also means that we don’t have to judge everything we think about. We don’t have to dissect every single thought. Small or big. Not every thought deserves for us to pull out the operating table and perform surgery to remove the root cause.

It can simply be JUST a thought.

So as thoughts arise, we can acknowledge them but we don’t have to play judge and jury for them by labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

Mindfulness can be practiced in a plethora of ways. People see different results when they begin practicing mindfulness. Some have a specific purpose when they begin practicing- they want to lower their stress levels, become more focused, feel more compassionate etc etc etc – And some people, like my dear friend, straight up just don’t believe in it.

Either way, it’s all good.

I know that for me, mindfulness brought an overflowing amount fulfillment into my life. I realized that the culprit of my worries and angst comes from replaying the past and rehearsing for my future. Letting go of certain parts of myself and gaining perspective on undiscovered parts – through mindfulness feels right for me. Despite the painful parts, mindfulness feels good. Mindfulness feels authentic to me.

Hope you’re having a great week!

Be Well,

Bree

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