What is mindfulness?
There is a lot of pop culture hype around mindfulness. But, what is it actually? Mindfulness is the awareness that comes from paying attention to something on purpose, in real time, without judging. Our thoughts and attention will inevitably get taken away, but mindfulness is bringing that attention back to the present moment and noticing what is happening now. By doing so, we become in touch with our life as it happens rather than feeling like we are chronically on autopilot, which is often the case in modern day society. Whether it is parenting or working outside of the home, most of us run from activity to activity from to-do to to-do, without much attention or appreciation for the experience we are in. For me, I often have that feeling that if I am doing one thing, I know I am not doing something else. If I am riding scooters with my kids on the patio, I know dinner is not being made, work calls not returned. I have come to find that quality trumps quantity. If I can fully and mindfully immerse myself in the experience of play, in the moment, hearing the laughs, and watching the joy, I feel calmer and more connected to myself and to my children. It is not to say that dinner doesn't have to be made or calls not returned, but most often it can wait a minute. I find that if I am fully aware and engaged in the present experience, both the children and I feel more satisfied, and it is easier to completely step into the next activity. I feel the most stressed and notice the kids calling for my attention more when I am straddling multiple activities at once, like playing and making dinner. It seems like I am not quite giving anyone or anything what they need. We all feel worse because of it.
I think people are often intimidated by meditation or mindfulness. It can sound a little exotic or off beat but it can be quite simple to integrate some basic mindfulness skills into everyday life without much training. Quite literally, just start to pay attention to the moment. I often teach my kids basic mindfulness exercises and it is very simple. As you walk, notice as many sounds as you can. Without judging or interpreting. Just notice. Name them and notice. You may want to also notice colors. Or sensations in the body. Or thoughts. You can attend or notice anything. Mindfulness is the practice of noticing and seeing what you see. There is a part of me that lives inside the body and mind and just watches - the observer, the mind's eye. As I watch experiences unfold, I breathe, allowing the breath to become slower and more relaxed. Deeper. Calmer. Allowing the muscles to become loose, and soft, and comfortable. And, the breathe slower. I step into this perspective easily and readily though out the day. It does not have to happen at any particular time or place, but rather weaved into the fabric of the day. I practice mindfulness and move on, whatever that means. However, the more mindful I am, the more I find myself practicing. The calmer I feel. The calmer the kids feel. The calmer the house is.