The benefits of mindfulness
Mindfulness is defined as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” For example, being aware of your breath. Not controlling it, only focusing on the inhale and exhale, allowing your mind to be free of the clutter of the day.
“Mindfulness” and “meditation” are two words that have become popular. Trendy, even. I recently bought a Time special issue dedicated to these two words. If you’re like me, you’re hesitant of fashionable ideas and solutions. Nevertheless, the practice was mentioned to me by someone I trust when I complained of my mind being busy with the past or future. I was struggling to live in the present.
So, I found some literature on the subject and reputable guided meditations, and I began.
When we think of “meditation,” we imagine someone sitting crossed-legged on the floor, eyes closed, hands on knees. And rightly so. This is the picture painted in the media and it’s the typical pose in Buddhist meditation. Though, it’s not a necessary position for one to meditate. While I’m not Buddhist, I do appreciate some of the sentiments of the religion. Growing up in the church, the terms meditation and mindfulness were never mentioned, so I never considered it a practice worth exploring.
Yet as I considered the practice to overcome my anxieties, I was reminded of different ideas and instances in the Bible that were similar. In mindfulness, we bring attention to our breath. We learn thoughts come and go and that we should let them be, allowing our minds to be in a state of rest. And it’s the need and peace I felt in this state that reminded me of the still small voice of our creator we’re supposed to listen for, but struggle to hear. How can we hear it, if we are not still ourselves? For me, that’s what mindfulness is: being still. Even Christ had to be alone to connect with his father. When he spent time in the wilderness, or when he dreaded his death in Gethsemane. I’m sure you can think of countless Biblical examples. Being alone and still and reflective is not only a Buddhist practice.
This world is filled with reasons to worry and be anxious. Even our prayers are filled with the noise of what we think we need and want. And while our wants and needs are important, often our motives are wrong and our understanding is clouded because our sight on earth is dim. The least we can do is to go by ourselves for a few minutes, remember who we are and what is wanted from us. And mindfulness doesn’t only involve sitting alone and being quiet. We can be mindful in our everyday practices of washing dishes, playing with our children, writing in a journal, or gardening.
While the past and future are important, the present is the only time we have any control over. We can make plans and worry about mistakes, but right here, right now is what matters. I’ve learned we can’t necessarily overcome or get rid of our anxieties, but we can accept and allow them. The chaos of this world will not go away. But our reactions to it can be of change and growth. That is what mindfulness has taught me. I’ve learned to be a better mom, wife, and person by seeing what’s right in front of me, though sometimes it can be difficult. Perhaps this Lenten season you, too can experience the benefits of being mindful.