Mindfulness: Today’s social platitude? Or can we really stay centered with it?
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I’ve seen it mentioned on television, recently read a column about it in my local newspaper, seen it on multiple covers in the book store, and watched it appear on countless Facebook feeds: Mindfulness. This term seems to be the new in thing right now, which is great because it’s bound to influence the lives of many. I just deeply hope it withstands the short-attention-span scrutiny of our ever busy society, instead of fading away into obscurity like a one-hit wonder.
So, what’s mindfulness anyway?
Mindfulness is such a basic thing; something which has been described and explained by so many enlightened souls who walked this path a thousand (or more) years before we ever stepped foot on it.
Mindfulness is simply awareness, acknowledgement and acceptance of what is.
For those needing a little more explanation, I’ll give you a scenario to help clarify: You’ve got an important meeting at work today. It’s going to start at 9am sharp. You’re sitting in the thickest traffic you’ve ever seen, and you’re a solid 30 minutes away from the office. It’s 8.30am and not a single car has moved in what feels like ages. Your palms are sweating, brow furrowed, teeth gritted. Some brake lights go off and you see the traffic surge forward. You release the break and hit the accelerator; then in a matter of seconds your effort to inch forward is thwarted. You’re at a standstill again. You’ve advanced about a foot and now it’s 8.45am.
This is a situation where living mindfulness is under serious pressure, and you have two ways to go about it:
1) If you practice living in mindfulness, when you become aware of the situation (traffic jam), you may not like it, but you acknowledge there’s nothing you can do about it. Then the ever important step you take is to accept the situation – as it is – and release the anxiety, stress, and anger related to it from your system. You simply let it go and move on.
2) If you don’t practice mindfulness in the traffic jam scenario, your blood pressure would be through the roof, you would’ve verbally abused everyone around you, possibly made a risky or dangerous maneuver in your car, and sworn at yourself for not being smart enough to leave an hour earlier. The anxiety, stress and anger from the situation would have thrown your entire being into a downward spiral, not only mentally, but physically as well.
When there are so many things pressing upon you, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. You let that roar of anger thrust through you, grab onto and ride it. But oddly enough, when you feel that anger welling up inside you, that’s when mindfulness is most needed.
Mindfulness is not ignorance.
Some people may observe the driver practicing mindfulness and think they’re merely ignorant or don’t have stress like they do (you know, those people who say “You don’t know what it’s like!“, yet they – who dare threaten such a statement – they themselves don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes either). If our driver is truly living in a mindful way, ignorance is impossible.
Remember, mindfulness is all about awareness, so our mindful driver isn’t all la-la-lah pretending the traffic jam doesn’t exist, dreaming of picking daisies and walking barefoot in the grass. Mindful people are definitely aware of the problem, they simply acknowledge and choose not to let it affect them.
Being able to allow stress pass through your mind and body isn’t ignorance, it’s the most advanced way a person can possibly live. But, it’s not a plug-and-play tool.
Staying centered takes practice. Lots of practice.
If you noticed, I used the word practice when I explained what mindfulness was a little earlier. I use that term because that’s exactly what you must do to be ever mindful: Practice. Mindfulness is like anything worth perfecting – it takes practice.
Would you expect to be consistently good at anything without some sort of practice? Would a yogi need to practice to perfect his moves? A mathematician practice to perfect her equations? A singer to hit those notes? Swimmer to stay afloat? Anybody doing anything for that matter? Well yes, of course.
Take a deep breath and try again.
Sometimes you’ll be so mindful you’ll impress yourself, and other times you won’t fare so vibrantly. But you know what? That’s 100% okay. Forgetting mindfulness under pressure doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it or aren’t any good at it. It simply means you must practice more.
And please remember, no matter how many times you practice anything, there will be times you err – miss the ball, trip over the flat floor, burn the pancake, or whatever. But when you choose to be mindful, all those mistakes are seen as mere proof that your spiritual self is simply living the human experience. So take a breath in and do the best you can in the very next moment you’re able to.
I really feel that mindfulness in our age isn’t just a trend that will fade out over time; that it’s not merely a platitude for people to tweet about. What about you? Can you think of an instance today or yesterday when you could’ve been mindful, or were mindful about something? Please let me know your thoughts about this blog by commenting below! Big love friends, namaste xo.