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Making Mindfulness Your Own

Making Mindfulness Your Own

It might be safe to say that it’s not your first time reading about mindfulness. The term and various practices that fall under it have become increasingly popular as ways to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental and emotional challenges.

Mindfulness is the ability to maintain moment-by-moment awareness of ourselves and our current experience - including thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the environment we are in.

In today’s modern life, we are potentially facing acute stressors throughout the day such as traffic, deadlines, or rushing home to make dinner for the family.  Coupled with chronic underlying stressors like finances or ailments, it's understandable how mindfulness could be of great benefit. In the present moment, all that is, is that moment itself, and in that moment events of the past or deadlines of the future don’t exist.  Further, it can take us into a state of being able to observe not only all that is happening, but also our reactions to it.  In this way, we have the ability to more consciously choose how we relate and react to things happening around us.

Traditional mindfulness stems from ancient practices that the Buddha himself used to achieve enlightenment. This entailed sitting still in a meditative posture, practicing presence of the breath and the body, and achieving a state of complete non-reactivity to anything that may be there.

Although many people can certainly understand the benefits, the common association of practicing mindfulness being formal meditation can create a challenge.  If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard someone say “I’m just not good at meditating”…well, I’d have a lot dimes!

There's difficulty in bringing these practices to our modern lives.  For some, it's having access to a quiet, conducive place to meditate. Many people say they can’t find the time. For others, just sitting still can be a painful challenge, both for the body and the mind.  If it doesn’t feel accessible and interesting, there’s much less incentive to getting over the initial hurdle of developing a regular practice.

In my work as a Psychotherapist, I’ve been able to witness clients make mindfulness their own - that is, apply this ancient wisdom to their modern lives and unique personalities. By looking at the principles of mindfulness - awareness of body, thoughts, feelings and environment, and then identify things they enjoy doing, combining the two can create a mindfulness practice that is both accessible and effective for them.

Believe it or not, I enjoy cleaning. Why not make what could be a time-consuming chore, into a chance to really practice mindfulness by bringing full awareness to the experience of mopping for instance - awareness of the smell of the cleaner, the look of the surface of the floor, the feeling in my arms as I move the mop around - so many opportunities to practice mindfulness!  And if my mind drifts off into thinking about yesterday’s presentation, or next week’s deadline, once I've notice it's drifted, I gently come back to the present moment in which all that exists is me mopping the floor, the smell of the get the point.

Now for those who don’t love cleaning as much I do, maybe you’d like to start with something you do enjoy - going on a mindful walk, taking a mindful bath, or even eating your next bowl of ice cream, oh so mindfully. The point is, any experience we have is one that can be done mindfully. And if you allow yourself to start with something you enjoy, the chances of continuing to practice in other areas - maybe even eventually in a seated posture - are much greater.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. A mountain isn’t climbed in one step. Like working towards any goal, start small, and set yourself up to succeed. And know that to practice mindfulness, all you need is the intention, your mind, and a reminder that anything you are doing can be done mindfully.

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