It seems like the word mindfulness is everywhere you look. If you type ‘mindfulness’ into Google Search, up pops 157,000,000 hits. We all have a vague sense that if we learned how to be mindful it would make our lives better somehow.
But what is mindfulness? It means paying attention to what is happening in your life NOW - not in the past or the future, but in the here and now. Mindfulness begins when we recognize the tendency to be ‘lost in our thoughts’ and make a commitment to be fully present for our lives. We do this through a moment-to-moment awareness of bodily sensations, thoughts and emotions with a friendly, non-judging attitude.
But what really got me to commit to the practice of mindfulness was its touted effectiveness in reducing stress. I was going through a rough patch a couple of years ago and felt it couldn’t hurt to give it a try. I am so grateful I did. Here’s 4 reasons why it worked for me. Maybe some of them may resonate for you too.
1. This Life Is Precious – We Can’t Waste It
In the space of three short years I lost my mother to dementia, my brother to lung cancer and a friend to pancreatic cancer. The reality hit home that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee and we need to make the most of today. Yet, despite my best intentions, I realized I was still missing so much in my life, mindlessly showering, eating, driving, working, and even interacting with others. Mindfulness has helped me to practice being fully engaged with life – even the difficult parts.
2. Accepting My Monkey Mind
Ever since I was a kid, I have been pre-disposed to anxiety. To keep that anxiety in check my brain is constantly trying to solve a problem or improve a situation through creative ideas and solutions. I thought my ‘monkey mind’ was a problem until my mindfulness practice helped me see that ‘the mind has a mind of its own’. Our brain has between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day! Now when my mind wanders away I notice where it’s gone and then return to the anchor of my breathing – over and over! Practicing this patiently and with a light touch helps calm and ground me.
3. Life Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Okay
Mindfulness helps me to notice how my mind likes to judge both myself and others. When I want more of what she has or less of what he has, I notice the sensation of my heart constricting. Practicing open-hearted acceptance of life as it is in this moment isn’t easy, but it is at the heart of the ‘being mode’.
4. Feeling Connected
Mindfulness has helped me become aware of how my social interactions account for the majority of my stressors. Mindful listening has helped me to continually tune into my own body sensations and thoughts during communication as I learn to listen deeply and really connect and receive the message of the other person. You don’t necessarily have to agree with the other’s point of view but it is important to acknowledge it. When both sides in a relationship feel truly heard then extraordinary new possibilities emerge.
This past year, I have made life changes I didn’t have the courage to make before. Life isn’t perfect, but I am happier than I’ve ever been. And every day I practice mindfulness meditation– not because I have to, but because I want to.
Mindfulness is a game-changer, no doubt about it.
For more information on the next Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction 8 week program: