Mindfulness is…

… The stillness in my house and the trills of songbirds I hear every morning. Breathing deeply in and out. Finding my center before I rise.

… Savoring every bite of my meal. Eating slowly, mindfully. Noticing the food’s texture and subtle flavors. Focusing all of my attention on the moment without distraction.

… Noticing I’m on a technical gadget when I ask my children to “disconnect their brains” from their tablets. Oops. Leading by example, I shut the pc (or tablet or cellphone) off to be with my children.

… Knowing when to say “no.”

… The soothing mantras or prayers I repeat as I load my van and drive to each class I teach. Centering myself so I can set the class tone and guide my students to inner peace.

… The rhythms as I swim, 1, 2, 3, 4, breathe — knowing it’s time for myself to strengthen, heal and replenish.

… Every time I shut my cell phone off so I can be fully present with the people I care about or the experience I want to be fully present for.

… My muted reaction when I discover my dog has feasted on 2 pounds of lunch meat from the patio table. For her sake, I hope the treats were worth the tummy trouble. For my sake, I’m keeping her outside.

… Feeling my body. Recognizing that pain is the body’s way of saying, “please back off, adjust, and be kind.” Honoring my body with exercises that suit its unique needs.

… Noticing fatigue. Reminding myself that even if I can only exercise or work on a project for 15 minutes, it’s the effort put into that routine, not the time invested, that matters.

… Savoring moments, not things.

… Taking notice when I am in disagreement with a friend or relative, then asking myself why I may have reacted. Apologizing when I am wrong.

… Taking a deep, slow breath when I feel stressed. Then another, and another — until I find my center.

… Feeling the earth when I weed, intently noticing the colors and smells of my plants as I prune and replant them.

… In difficult a circumstance, knowing that this, too, shall pass.

… Sensing a soothing breeze, smelling freshly cut grass, feeling the soft earth beneath my shoes, seeing my dog leap from place to place, and listening to my girls and husband laugh as we hike through the woods.

… Discerning the difference between what my body feels versus what my mind is thinking. Is that move really “not safe,” or is my mind fearful? In other circumstances, am I pushing my body beyond what it can handle into pain? Mindfulness reminds me to reconsider, feel the body, and truly attune to its needs.

… Joy, remorse, pleasure, pain, trust, disgust, anger, surprise… Allowing my mind, body and soul to express — not repress — my emotions in a healthy way. Constructively dealing with emotions to learn from each experience, let go, and move on.

… Before I spend money, noticing if that item or excursion is a want or need. The wants are lovely, but the needs come first.

… If my want feels like a need, what unmet emotions am I ignoring? Will that “want” solve the problem, or only fill a gaping emotional hole that needs more?

… Fully enjoying those wants when I take advantage of them.

… Noticing that my history and life experiences color my perceptions of the world — as they do with every person. I take a step back and ask myself, “is this really xxx?” to see an event, person, or place in a different way.

… I then take stock of what I can change, and let go of what I cannot.

… Catching myself in reaction, and calling my Ego out. Questioning those feelings and perceptions to see why I am in reaction and going to the root cause. That fear of xxx comes from… That strong opinion against xxx comes from… That indignation comes from xxx…

… As a “recovering perfectionist,” allowing myself to accept something as good enough. Perfection is an illusion, and I’m done with trying so hard to reach the impossible “somewhere out there.”

… Recognizing that food (for me) is medicine. As a person recovered from an eating disorder who has food sensitivities, this has been a long journey. I no longer see food as an enemy. If I look at food from a medical standpoint, I can now identify foods that hurt my body while embracing the foods that nourish and sustain me. Variety is good, and treats are wonderful for special occasions.

… Remembering to practice gratitude. Every. Single. Day. If I feel down or discouraged, I pull out my pen and write down what I am grateful for, even the smallest of things.

… Making an effort to rid certain words from my vocabulary: Should, Need to, Can’t, Must, Shouldn’t. Using these words sparingly and not as weapons to judge myself or others.

… Every evening, as I lay to sleep, taking the time to honor myself. I close my eyes, breathe deeply, meditate, and fall into peace.

References/Further Reading

What is Mindfulness? Greater Good Science Center, the University of California, Berkeley. Life.

Pickert, Kate. The Mindful Revolution. 23 January 2014. Time Magazine. Full article available via subscription.

Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Founding Executive Director. University of Massachusetts Medical School.