Mindfulness? Or just living!

Mindfulness, is it stil a buzzword? Or is it part of our everyday vocabulary already? It must still be really big, because after googling the word, the offers for workshops and training are screaming for my attention. And google gets smarter and smarter, so they are all local!

But I’m sorry dear therapists and trainers, I am not your audience. It’s not that I don’t believe in being mindful, on the contrary, I believe being mindful is what more people should do, not try, do. I think stress is our main cause of death, if you realize that stress results in various unhealthy habits, like overeating, drinking and otherwise numbing our feelings. And being mindful is the antidote to stress, so yes… I really believe in being mindful.

But I don’t like that it has been blown up so big. That people think they need to spend the money they earned with their stressful jobs on therapists and trainers that tell them to meditate and go for long walks (for which we now have the time since we are in this burnout-ish situation, but wait… how will I do that once I’m back to work???)

Oh boy… I don’t want this to be such a negative blog… really. I do believe stress is a problem. Trust me, I had my first burn out when I was 17 years young and still living at home with my parents. I had my second burn out after only a few years of working, in my early twenties and my last (and final!) burnout is not even two years ago. So… I know stress. I know how hard it can be to be mindful.

However… maybe it took me three burn outs and a few years of living to gain this wisdom, mindfulness trainings and mindful therapists may not be what I need, I do sincerely believe they actually do help a lot of people. However I honestly believe we are making it too hard and too difficult by blowing it all up so big. Yes, meditation can help you be more mindful… but it doesn’t have to be hours or not even every day. Yes, taking a long walk is a really good idea to relieve stress, to be more in the moment, to enjoy being outside, to feel the air, to feel the sun, the wind… yes! All true. Do! Walk! Meditate!

And I realize I’m oversimplifying the good work these trainers and therapists offer, by suggesting it’s just meditating and the advise to take long walks. But still… It isn’t that hard!

It can be done differently. More simple.

I have learned these past years, that being mindful is nothing more than being present in the here and now. Accepting, experiencing the now as it is.

So cooking dinner turned out to be something I can be mindful in. Making fresh pasta, not every day, but sometimes, feeling the flower turn into dough, enjoying a meal I put effort in, body strength. I have started to bake fresh bread in the weekends. It’s not hard, it only requires a little planning.

Even feeding our bunnies when the kids are unavailable, can shift from a necessary task, to a joyful, in the moment experience. Listening to their exciting, hungry gestures when I approach their cage. Feeling their ever so soft fur when they push my hand aside after I (finally!) placed their bowl on the floor of their cage so they can eat. Looking at their funny and endearing being, being aware of their dependence from us. All things that can easily be considered while performing such a simple task.

The key is to be in the moment, and not think about job, tasks, expectations and so on…

I have several moments of sheer happiness, utter mindful minutes every week, preferably every day. My day starts at 7:30 am. That is when me and my kids get up and start “working” on what we need to do day to day. Get dressed, make breakfast (every girl for herself, because they can do that), make tea, prepare for school or work, etc.

But before we do, our alarms go off at 7:15 am. While I snooze mine for the first time, my heart listens if I can already hear them. If I can hear my youngest jump out of her bed, if I can hear the floor of my oldest girls bedroom. I listen if I can hear their doors open and when I do, butterflies go through my belly… My door opens and there they are. My husband has probably already left for work, so I roll over to the middle of our bed, while one girl already jumps in, on my husbands side. And as I pull her near me, I wait for the other to storm around the bed and jump in on my side. And there she is too. Their warm bodies, still in pj’s, soft and warm, hugging mine, their arms around me and if I’m lucky around each other. We don’t talk for a few minutes. I don’t think about my day… it has not yet begun… every thinking can wait.

I also don’t think of all the bad things that can happen to these precious gifts I’ve been given. That would spoil it. It makes you vulnerable and there’s no point for vulnerability at this hour. Why bother… This is joy! Sheer joy! Me and my girls, just body to body, in my arms, one on the left, one on the right.

For five minutes we snuggle. Not a sound, just us being, breathing, feeling and loving each other. Then my alarm goes again. My youngest girl presses snooze again and starts to chat. She can’t help herself, she is either awake or asleep… there is no in between for her. She’s up and her mind starts working. Sometimes she talks about something she remembers from the day before, sometimes she tells me something about the day ahead, but her favorite thing to do is ask me for stories. Mommy… can you tell me again what happened when I was born? Mom, can you tell me again what you sang for me when I was little and I needed comforting (and yes, I’ll tell her… singing at that hour will spoil the memory) and while I tell her, her gleaming eyes look at me in admiration and love, begging me for more.

My oldest is stil quiet. But I can tell from the firm hugs I get every other minute that she’s awake and fully present. Her eyes are still closed. Her body and mind are still resting. I add pressure to my hug and receive the same from her. She opens her eyes and looks at me, sleepy but lovingly. She sighs and closes her eyes again, a smile on her face.

Another five minutes have past. My alarm goes off again. Five more minutes. My youngest presses snooze for the last time. She starts to prepare for the day, wondering about what to wear, she asks what the weather will be like. She asks about the schedule, will she have to go to soccer, are there any playdates, do I have any plans. I start to tickle her a little, her giggling brightens my day. It comes from deep inside her belly. My oldest is stil quiet. I still get a firm hug every other minute or so. Her eyes are still closed. Every now and then she sighs, breathing deeply. Her body and mind are still resting. I add pressure to my hug again and receive the same from her. She opens her eyes and looks at me, sleepy but lovingly. She sighs and closes her eyes again, a smile on her face.

The alarm goes off again. Time to get up. I take away the covers off the bed and get out. My youngest is up. She starts singing and doing what she must do. My oldest stretches, sighs one more time, steps out of bed and walks to her bedroom still a little sleepy. I look at them and know: it will be a good day today.

Mindful. Enjoying, feeling, being in the simple things in life.

Practice it!

It’s worth it.