Is mindfulness a real thing?

You know you’ve been wondering about this.

Tip 1: Notice new things
The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. ~Thich Nhat Hanh

​Mindfulness is a buzzword with growing popularity in the mainstream media as well as in our daily lives. What comes up for you when you are faced with the word “mindfulness”?

Do you think Yoda?

Do you think of someone sat crossed legged in meditation?

Do words such as “zen,” “calm,” “peace” float across your mind in word bubbles?

Does the image of the statue “The Thinker” appear?

Are you reminded of a teacher who once said “you need to be more mindful”?

The truth is, many of us are not clear on the term “mindfulness” so we apply what we loosely associate with the word to our understanding. For many of us, this means we do not truly understand; therefore, do not consciously practice mindfulness. While it sounds like the “right” thing to do, it remains an elusive state that is not a priority.

I’m a Virgo, so they say I can be practical and grounded. What I do know is that I have an appetite to know and understand. So, let’s explore mindfulness together…

What is the opposite of mindfulness?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

It is mindlessness.

What are some descriptions of mindlessness?

  • Autopilot
  • Unaware
  • Numb
  • Bored

Do any of these descriptions remind you of areas in your life? Think about it. What’s the commonality between these areas in your life where you feel a state of mindlessness?

When I’m in a state of mindlessness, I’m focused on either the past or the future. My attention is on the history or outcome of a situation that happened in the past rather than the now. Or I’m focused on a desired outcome in the future that makes this moment dull in comparison. Of course, this is an illusion since the past and the future are only in our minds. The only reality is the present moment.

Ultimately, when we are stuck in mindlessness, it robs us of our joy, creativity and happiness in the now.

This happens all the time and to everyone. Living in a technologically advanced world, one can expect mindfulness to be a difficult practice at times. Don’t judge yourself when you find yourself to be in a state of mindlessness. You are human, so your mind is built for autopilot sometimes. Awareness is a powerful first step to shifting your consciousness.

In true Virgo fashion, here are some tactical ways you can begin shifting from mindlessness to mindfulness:

1. Notice new things

You might walk or drive the same path to work or school every day and it’s easy to zone out. Try noticing what’s different about today’s experience. The people you see along the way, the newly formed buds in the trees and flowers, the weather and how it interacts with people and nature… what makes today’s experience unique?

2. Notice your emotions

This is your inner compass. Do not ignore it. Check your emotions often throughout the day. How are you feeling at this present moment? Your emotions tell you how near or far away you are from your truth. Being aware allows you to make conscious decisions relative to your truth. For example, if you are feeling unsettled. Ask yourself “why?” Was it a hurtful conversation you had with a loved one recently? Is it feeling ill-prepared for a commitment you made later in the week? Your emotions will guide you to actions that will bring you closer your truth. Do you need to ask for forgiveness or express your hurt feelings with your loved one? Are you taking on too much and need to reprioritize your commitments? If you push through the day/week/month without pausing to reflect, you are on autopilot and probably numbing yourself. This unawareness disempowers you to be in the driver seat of your own life.

3. Do things differently

How many of us are engaged in a long-term job/relationship/hobby? It’s human nature to get bored of the same things after months/years/decades. So, make it different! Ask yourself, how might I do this differently today? Often that’s how creativity and innovation is born. How might you experiment with your tried and true recipe? How might you solve that problem you’ve solved 100 times before in a different way? How could you express your love and affection for your partner in a way that you haven’t before?

4. Focus on the now

Very simply put, when we are focused on anything else but experiencing the now, we rob ourselves of our life. The past is gone — dwelling on it can breed comparison, lack, regret and shame. The future is an illusion — focused on outcomes of the future which are out of our control, can create unnecessary anxiety and stress. The only thing that is real is the present. It is only by focusing on what you want to do in this moment that defines who you are and can bring you fulfillment. Read this article to learn techniques on being present.

What does mindfulness mean to you? I would love to hear your comments.

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Originally published at www.mybreathingmind.com.