It’s funny how once a word becomes a buzzword, its definition can start to muddle. Mindfulness is absolutely one of those words.
By now, we’ve heard the word so many times that it’s almost natural to start tuning it out. Not because we are opposed to mindfulness, but because it’s vagueness gets a bit exhausting.
In our last blog post, we defined mindfulness as paying attention with attention. As we move into this Fall Into Fitness Challenge, which is themed around Mindfulness on the Mat, we turn this definition into our reality.
Of course, it happens slowly. Mindfulness is a lifelong practice, and just like yoga: it has no destination.
We’ll give you some exercises and inspirations here, but there are a million other ways to go about it. As we get started with our little mindfulness blog series, keep in mind that there are a lot of interchangeable words for mindfulness. Presence, calm, inner peace, being in the now, waking up — really, the language is naturally as infinite as the concept.
Revisiting the Definition of Mindfulness
In addition to defining the term, we can think about mindfulness generally as “waking up.” You know that feeling when you’re eating one of your favorite meals, and you realize that you only started actually tasting it during the last few bites?
Have you ever taken a restorative class and only realized in the last ten minutes that your mind had been racing the whole time?
Have you ever participated in a conversation with someone you love and realize that while they’re talking to you about something important, you’ve been thinking about what to make for dinner? Or about your todo list?
These would all be scenarios of: not-mindfulness. This sort of disengaged, asleep behavior is not only an unfulfilling way of going about life, but it’s also the baseline for a lot of psychological discomfort.
Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to show up fully to life. The thing is, if we want to reap the benefits: we can’t be selectively mindful in life. We can’t be our widest awake brightest self on the beach at the five star resort in Hawaii, and then numb-out during a challenging conversation about finances with our partner.
But try, we will. As we embark on this journey of mindfulness, it’s important to realize that it’s not all fluffy-meditation-pillows and crystals.
How Do We Actually Get Started with Mindfulness?
So how do we move beyond the mindfulness talk and t-shirts, and turn it into a practice that actually shifts our quality of life?
You can post pictures of your mindful life on Instagram all day long, but until you devote real time to it, your practice will stay ground-level.
The key word here is really time. It’s no different than a yoga class or Barre class. If you want to refine your practice at anything, you have to set aside time for it. End o’ story. The tricky part about mindfulness however is that you don’t have a teacher yelling at you to relax harder 😉
You are your own guide, leader, and teacher in your own mindfulness practice. Which takes a serious amount of determination and discipline. It all starts with setting aside that chunk of time for the practice, as often as it’s realistic.
Setting Aside Time For What?
If you’re serious about cultivating more presence in your life, think about setting aside blocks of time dedicated to it. Here are a few examples:
- Start your day with 10 minutes of mindfulness. This can look like: meditation (just sit, close your eyes, and breathe — more on this next week), journaling, breathing, or reading mindfulness materials. You see? It doesn’t just have to be meditating. Just take ten minutes to focus on being full awake to your being-alive-ness.
- Participate in a meditation, restorative yoga, or Yoga Nidra class once a week. One hour of a meditative practice per week will go cosmically far. Plus it can be easier to commit to this rather than motivating yourself to do something daily, on your own. (In the beginning.)
- Decide to be deliberately mindful during one action of the day. When you decide to go to the grocery store, be awake the whole time, stay out of your mind, notice the small things. Or be deliberately mindful during your one hour at the studio. Or while cooking dinner. Or while driving to the bank. That’s it — make it a challenge for yourself not to drift off into The Land of Cyclical Thoughts and Endless Distraction. (Cause you know you’ll get stuck there a while.)
- A really fun way to practice mindfulness is through your eating experiences. Decide to eat one meal a day extra-mindfully. This means that you ditch all screens and distractions of your mind (don’t read, don’t walk around.) Give yourself permission to sit down and have a proper meal. Chew slowly. Eating mindfully is like having a conversation with your meal — a particularly thrilling one. Bon appétit 😃
Simple and Not-So-Simple
As we start to engage in more mindfulness practices, we tend to notice immediately how chaotic and LOUD our mind is. Our mind is bossy, and it’s not very nice.
Sometimes upon realizing this, we wonder why we ever got started. It doesn’t feel very great to be newly aware of the screaming voice in your head, with nothing to do about it. Stick with it.
It’s incredibly good news to achieve this awareness, uncomfortable as it may seem. If you are able to hear the rambling of the mind, that means you are not consumed by it! You are not the mind! Congratulations.
Therefore, every mini-moment of such awareness, you’re strengthening your mindfulness muscle. Just like a workout, you’ll get stronger.
Remember to dedicate the time. Do the practice no matter what. Watch and you’ll see the world transform around you. Really, that is not an empty promise.
Becoming more present and waking up fully to life is the fighting the good fight. It’s work, but it pays you for the rest of your life.
Devon Barrow is a yoga teacher for Ohana Yoga + Barre, our amazing social media manager, and a talented teacher for the YTT program. Yoga has been a part of Devon’s life since she was nine years old and continues to be her agent of healing and health. You’ll find both creativity of the physical body and the power of mindfulness in her classes.