The biggest challenge of becoming more mindful is the fact that it’s called “mindfulness”. The reality is it has nothing to do with your mind.
Make no mistake – there are “experts” and “gurus” who may jump all over that statement and say it has everything to do with the mind. You will hear that you MUST “do things” such as meditate and follow some set of practices in order to be “correct” about being mindful. These are unfortunate myths that are keeping many people from fully embracing this wonderful way of life.
Let’s look at what mindfulness really is, break it down and make it fool proof in order for you to receive the long list of benefits that living a mindful lifestyle will bring your way. Please consider these two facts:
1. The commonly accepted definition of mindfulness is “To pay attention to the present moment, with a nonjudgmental stance”, or, as stated on Greater Good, “Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.”
2. Both of these statements set you up for instant failure because they prompt the mind to start thinking about it. When you are thinking, you are not being mindful – you are being thoughtful. Let’s learn the difference.
The True Definition of Mindfulness:
Mindfulness is a heightened state of awareness that allows you to experience the here and now, without attachment or judgment.
Pursuing a heightened state of awareness frees you to respond to the present moment in a more thoughtful way. The present moment comes alive in vibrant, living color. It is the opposite of dull and boring. Instead, it’s uplifting and FINALLY – you get to choose how you would most like to respond to what your awareness is bringing to you in a way that is authentic and uniquely YOU. By that I mean the highest version of you.
You will have space to breathe without frantically reacting. No longer will you be locked away in your head like some sort of prisoner. You will be free to experience every nuance of the only time you truly own – Right Now. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feelings will present themselves as a smorgasbord for you to feast on. You will feel satiated, relaxed and alive.
How to Really be More Mindful:
So, now that you know that true mindfulness has nothing to do with your mind, and that it is about living in a heightened state of awareness, you can easily begin to do it. The first step is to stop thinking about it. Your mind WILL think; that’s what it does. You can just let those thoughts come and go like clouds that pass through the sky on a sunny day.
There are many ways to heighten your awareness, and the easiest is to start with one sense and build up to working all your senses into an increased sense of being. Here are some tips:
Pick your favorite sense – is it hearing, looking or feeling (how the air feels around your body, how you feel moving, sitting, etc….)? Tasting and smelling are also senses, and at the same time, I caution really working on tasting things if you are prone to overeating. Anyway, pick a sense any sense and just BE with that sense as it is stimulated in the here and now. For hearing, listen to the sounds around you – don’t think about them – just listen and lose yourself in the experience of listening. For looking – look at what is in your immediate environment, again not thinking about it, just really looking and finding what you enjoy, the colors, lighting, etc…
One at a time, practice tuning into each sense in this way. You can spend about a minute per day allowing each sense to take over your awareness and then slowly work on merging them all together. Your mind can still think thoughts while you are doing it, however, chances are it will naturally become very quiet as it realizes you are attempting to listen, look, feel, taste and smell.
THAT is when you will realize true mindfulness. That is where when you do think, it will be on purpose and can be about what response will best serve your life where before you may have thoughtlessly reacted in ways that weren’t in anyone’s best interest. Or, you don’t have to think at all, you can just fully relax into this immediate moment and be fully alive in it. You will be more effective, more efficient and your life will take on a depth and beauty that was hidden away from you before.
If that sounds too simple for you to accomplish, let me know and I’ll add some complications. For now, this is the absolutely best place to begin because true mindfulness is something you experience and not something you think about.
What About Meditation and Mindfulness?
You can be the most mindful person in the whole world without ever having to meditate. I, and many others, suggest meditation as a supplement for mindful living as it is a helpful way to strengthen your core skills of relaxing your mind and reconnecting with other parts of yourself. However, it is not truly required. Yoga is an excellent practice for this as well, yet not required either. If all you do is persistently work on heightening your senses to remain aware of the present experience, you will see tremendous benefits.