“Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.” ~Sylvia Boorstein
As I write this post, we have just approached the four month mark of wading through the myriad of changes due to the global pandemic of 2020. The word COVID-19, wash your hands, watch for symptoms, stay home if you can and sanitize are words that have all become household names. Smiling at someone you pass in the grocery store is something that is no longer experienced by seeing the upward curve of the corners of the mouth. Instead, it is seen in someone’s eyes as we all wear face masks to protect each other from an insidious invader.
These past few months have given me the opportunity to really focus on what I am thinking about and how I am processing my emotions. In my rationalization, that’s being mindful.
When I’ve shared some of my thoughts on the subject, the conversation somehow turns to meditation. Meditation is a completely different practice to being mindful. And, since there seems to be some confusion around this, I thought I would write about it. See what you think!
In my humble opinion, meditation means intentionally quieting my mind so I can become aware of my own thoughts, let go of those thoughts and make room for messages from The Great Energy that inhabits the earth and beyond (I call It God most of the time!). It’s about conscious breathwork and being present to the idea that I can slow down my breathing and my beating heart by focusing on each breath coming into my lungs…and exhaling that same breath into the ethers. Meditation is like listening to music and hearing messages in the silence between the notes. Dr. Wayne Dyer called this ‘The Gap’.
Mindfulness on the other hand is something I believe we train our minds to do when we are consciously awake and walking through life. It’s being aware of what we are thinking, and how it is affecting us. If the affect is negative, it’s choosing a new way to be, think or do. I first learned to be mindful about 7 years ago during one of my sessions with a life coach. Until that moment, I moved through my day thinking that life had control of my thinking and being instead of me choosing what to think and how to react to what I think. It was a blessing and a curse all at the same time.
I’ve learned through mindfulness and meditation for that matter, that I don’t have to be sitting on a pillow saying ‘Om’ with legs crossed and back straight in order to be taking in the moment and doing something good for myself mentally, physically and psychologically. Mindfulness is about noticing…being aware…and being IN this moment completely present and fully awake. Meditation is more of something you choose to do whether sitting on that pillow, laying on a yoga mat or walking amongst the willows in an enchanted forest. Both are beneficial and health promoting activities that require little training, but sometimes a lot of effort.
Like the quote states…those moments can be pleasant or unpleasant. It means I am in every moment noticing it and seeing it for what it is and realizing that I can be OK with it, no matter how it makes me feel. I don’t need to push it away because it’s uncomfortable, I just need to notice it for what it is and allow myself the courtesy of letting it take up rent in my mind for just a little while as I process it and decide what to do with it. Respond as opposed to react!
It’s saying “Hmmmm….I’m thinking about (blank)…and I can feel that it’s causing me to have shortened breath and my heart is racing. I wonder what that’s all about?” And…it’s observing what comes next. THAT is being mindful…no judgment…no trying to change it or correct it or do whatever we think we ‘should’ in the moment because we want to be feeling something other than what we are feeling. Because let’s face it, humans would rather feel anything than what we consider to be ‘negative’ emotions; something we learned from our ancestors that we need to heal in our lifetime.
The truth is, I feel like over these past few months I have been graduating into high school instead of hanging out under the bleachers of middle school. I must say, this incremental level of maturity feels pretty good too. Doesn’t mean I won’t slip back into old ways of thinking and being once in a while, I mean after all that’s what this ‘earth school’ is all about! Instead of skipping out of school at lunch break and taking the easy way out, I’m going to hang out until last period when the bell rings ‘cause then I know I’ve been present to the lessons and it’s finally time to rush out the doors and move onto the next life lesson!