Mindful Much?

What does the word “mindfulness” mean to you? If I’m being honest, it falls into the same category as “self-care” and I’m tiring of that term.

But before we all toss these words to the side and head back to scrolling through our social media feeds, let’s ask ourselves: “What does mindfulness really mean to me?”

For me, I used to only equate mindfulness with meditation. But I’ve begun to realize it can be in the smallest moments: like washing the dishes, or taking a few deep breaths at the stoplight.

That said, I now believe that meditation - specifically, sitting quietly and observing one’s breath has a powerful and positive impact in one’s overall well-being. I have to come clean about one thing, though. While I have been teaching yoga for more than seven years, I did not have a regular meditation practice. I thought that I was a fraud for not meditating at the crack of dawn, seeing colorful light in my third-eye and awakening all my chakras. I used to meditate sporadically, but I never made an effort to create a regular routine of it. Because of this, I didn’t appreciate the practical benefits associated with this quiet “me-time.”

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I now do what works for me when it comes to meditation. So what if I don’t wake up before the rest of the family and meditate in lotus position (ahem, like the photo here)? So what if I have to scratch my nose midway through? Instead of trying to meditate in the way I thought a good yogi does, I have instead found a practice that works for me and to which I look forward.

Here’s how it unfolds: on weekday mornings, I wake up and get the kids up; then breakfast is prepared and eaten; lunches are prepared and boxed; conversations are enjoyed; and finally hugs and kisses are doled out before everyone dashes off to their respective places. I relish the morning chaos, and immediately after, I cherish the stillness.

It’s in this moment of stillness where I plop down on the couch for 15 minutes, with eyes closed and just focus on my breath. I may count each breath cycle or attach a simple mantra to it to stay present. Since thoughts cannot be controlled, I watch them come and go, as well as any resulting feelings that arise. If I miss my morning meditation, I make a point of doing it later in the day. In my opinion, any time is a good time to turn inward.

Once my meditation is complete, I jot a few thoughts down in my journal. Nothing earth-shattering, but it helps me to notice the patterns that emerge from my constant self-chatter. Also, by writing down my goals (even my to-do lists) it keeps me accountable. Then I set my mind on my next task and go do it (similar to setting one’s drishti - eyes focused on one point). I have found that this practice keeps me on task throughout the day. I am even less interested in the external distractions (especially social media, which is a huge win).

I know this practice is challenging…it has taken me years to find it somewhat comfortable. So, if you’re starting out, I encourage you to just focus on a few small, quiet moments without distractions. No need to overcomplicate being mindful. Just take time to appreciate what is truest to you: your breath and your heartbeat.