Every piece of writing has a purpose; you could compare it to a message in a bottle, a vessel being used to communicate something to the reader. If I’ve now got you wondering about what the primary purpose of this piece is, don’t worry, because I have my answer ready. So many people out there, including myself, completely misread what ‘mindfulness’ truly means.
To some, it is akin to meditation while others see it as one of way in which to practice the ancient art of zen. Those of us who are a little bit more cynical may even go so far as to call it propaganda; a way of tricking ourselves to give off “#goodvibesonly”.
What, then, does mindfulness really mean?
First off, I’m just going to put this out there: ‘Mindfulness’ isn’t a term that has been designed to trick you; it means exactly what it claims to mean at the outset. And although various sources have contributed to obscuring its message, here is what it exemplifies:
Have you ever caught yourself wandering off in your own thoughts while you’re say, driving? Or eating? Or in the shower? “Of course, I’m a human being,” is what you’re probably thinking. And I wholeheartedly agree. Our minds gravitate towards a multitude of thoughts about an equally large multitude of issues while we’re doing basically anything.
Here’s where mindfulness comes in. The term refers to a state where in we are able to train our mind to focus on the present moment. And not in a broad sense; mindfulness encompasses a school of thought wherein, if for example one is eating, their focus would only be on the tastes, smells, textures and feelings that they are experiencing as they perform the act of eating. Everything else is secondary.
Mindfulness can be utilized in any scenario of every life: be it walking, taking a shower, having a conversation, reading a book.
It simply means being wholly engaged in the act that you’re performing in the present moment; not dwelling over the past or planning the future.
How to be mindful through the day
However, I realize that this is easier said than done, and so I leave you with my two cents’ worth: being self aware is undoubtedly going to be a challenge at first, but try to keep checking in with your breath every few minutes and really [only] observe your thoughts. If you’re mulling over something that does not relate to the moment you find yourself in, let it go.
Come back to the sound of your breath and the feeling of air in your lungs; really feel the expansion of your rib cage as you take in a new breath.
If you feel a strong emotion coming on, just acknowledge it and focus on your surroundings instead. The idea is to not get swept away by emotion, but not suppress it either.
How many of us truly take in what’s right in front of us? Really listen to the crunch of the gravel beneath your feet; really watch the leaves as they fall off the trees.
All the same, despite taking the how that has to do with mindfulness into consideration, here’s another really important question (kudos if you’ve been apprehensively pondering about this): why would anyone want to practice mindfulness? It sounds like an awfully hard task.
Why practice mindfulness?
The answer, although by no means simple, is one that can be fairly easily understood.
If you’re able to control your mind, it no longer has the power to control you. Imagine being able to feel anger and not saying that thing you didn’t mean, or feeling fear but being calm in the face of it.
In fact, this is no longer simply a claim; several studies in the recent past have actually scientifically proven the various benefits of practicing mindfulness. At the start of the current year, an article published in the Harvard Review stated that:
“Mindfulness should no longer be considered a “nice-to-have” for executives. It’s a “must-have”: a way to keep our brains healthy, to support self-regulation and effective decision-making capabilities, and to protect ourselves from toxic stress.”
Now consider this: if you’re able to be a silent observer of your own thoughts, as opposed to avidly participating in your own internal monologue at any given moment, think of all the mental energy you could save up to engage in those conversations that are truly worth having with yourself. At the end of the day, the past has already happened and we all know how uncertain the future can be. Today is the day to live, and now is the moment in which to practice the art of living.
And here is where we come full circle with regards to the purpose of this article, because
The art of living essentially boils down to the art of mindfulness.
I hope this message in a bottle reaches you safely; I hope that when you pick it up, you are able to experience the way it feels in your hands and the touch of sand beneath your feet.