July 5, 2019

WTF is Mindfulness, Anyway?


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If someone were to have asked me two years ago what mindfulness meant, my answer would mostly likely have been “I’m not sure.”

Not because I didn’t practice mindfulness, and not because I wasn’t an avid yogi, but because I practiced yoga in a much different way then.

In just 730 short days, I’ve become a certified yoga instructor to adults and kids, started two yoga blogs (one for adults, and one for parents), started my own kids yoga company, and traveled to Bali, Indonesia where I spent time with a shaman and took a yin yoga class from a talented Balinese instructor.

These past couple years, I’ve learned far more about mindfulness than I ever thought I would. Mindful.org defines mindfulness as “the basic human ability to be fully present,” but when looking for a short and concise way to explain mindfulness to someone, I’ve realized my answer continues to be ever-changing.

Why is my answer always changing? Because life is always changing.

Mindfulness involves a few main focus points, but more importantly, mindfulness is what it is, as they say, “to the eyes of the beholder.” For that reason, our definition of mindfulness, as we grow in our practice, will always continue to change.

Here are six good, simple definitions of mindfulness for beginners.

1. Mindfulness is becoming grounded.

When I focus on being mindful, or present, I work on identifying where my body is, not where my body should be.

In other words, I work on letting go of the to-do lists constantly running around in my head, and I work on enjoying the moment, whether that moment is laying on my mat in savasana, or sitting comfortably at my desk as I write this awesome blog article.

2. Mindfulness is recognizing gratitude for one’s blessings.

Some days, I try to focus all of my energy on being grateful. This was especially true for me as I traveled to Bali.

In Indonesia, the people are incredibly kind, happy, and helpful. Each person I interacted with was more than happy to share insights about their country and about their life.

Balinese people pray three times daily, using offering baskets also known as canang saris. When they set these beautiful flower-filled boxes around the island, they often pray for loved ones and friends. Using incense and small treats, they offer these gifts to the universe praying for safe-keepings, joy-filled futures, and—most of all—they pray for gratitude.

It still melts my heart to think about how truly thankful this culture is. Balinese people are completely content with the little they have, and they joyfully work on their hands and knees, to provide a good living for their family or loved ones.

If only we could all feel and act this way. If only each person in this world could wake up feeling grateful each day—the world would be a much happier and more present place.

3. Mindfulness is letting go of worries presented in physical tension.

When I practice yoga, much like millions of people worldwide, I love how it makes me feel.

Yoga reminds me to focus on my breath, relax my muscles and mind, and let go of held-on tension.

When I teach yoga to adults, I am constantly reminding students to relax their shoulders. It is amazing how, even when we are mind-fully (like how I snuck that word in there?) working on relaxing our bodies, we still tense up. Recently, on my honeymoon, I got a massage. Even I had to consciously remind myself to relax.

Being mindful is giving your body permission to let go.

4. Mindfulness is communicating what is needed.

When we think about using our words to explain what we want, it usually involves pausing to determine what we actually feel and need, and talking less with more direct words.

As a kindergarten teacher, I used the following phrase a lot when students came to me crying or upset: Okay honey…Take a deep breath, and tell me what you need.

If we need something, or want someone’s attention, the more mindful we are in using direct communication, the easier it will be to get what we need. That’s not to say we always get what we want.

Honey, can you please put away the clean towels? That’s direct, right? But, believe me, this one isn’t always answered immediately.

5. Mindfulness is finding joy.

When I take deep breaths and focus on my breathing, whether it’s while running errands or rushing to teach my next yoga class, it causes me take a step back and realize how truly wonderful my life is.

Rather than thinking “Ugh… I have to fill my car up with gas again,” I think, “I am so lucky to have a car that transports me from point to point.” Instead of thinking, “If only I could sleep in just one more hour today,” I think, “I love the way I feel after teaching a successful yoga class. Making other people’s days just a little bit better truly makes my heart feel full!”

Being mindful means pausing to recognize and connect with all the good in this world, and accepting that good with a grateful heart.

6. Mindfulness is accepting imperfection.

Being mindful doesn’t just mean life is peaches and roses. It also means accepting that life really does stink sometimes.

I spill coffee, salsa, or frosting—you name it—on myself daily. Daily, people! But I’ve learned to laugh—or, wipe—it off.

I’m queen of showing up to events on the wrong day. Like, I went to a first communion two weeks early.

I’ve even done the opposite and arrived to the airport for a flight only to learn I was 24 hours late.

Needless to say, I am far from being a perfect gal.

The one thing I’ve got going for me is this: I keep on smiling. Yep! Being mindful has taught me to put things into perspective and flow with imperfection.

Mindfulness doesn’t mean that things run smoothly. It often means that things are tough and imperfect. But those tough and imperfect things eventually become blessings later on. There is always something to be grateful for—if only learning from experience.

When we remind our silly brains of these six simple definitions, we tune into mindfulness—the ability to be in our bodies and keep on being us, to keep doing the things that make us smile, find gratitude, be kind, or request what we need.

Who wouldn’t want that?

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