sheryl bee

practicing wholehearted, soulful living

What is Mindfulness?

When I told my sister that I wanted to start a mindful meditation lunch time session at school last year, she wondered if it would be o.k. because it’s a public school, and isn’t mindfulness like prayer and religious?

I hadn’t thought about that question, and thankfully the short answer is that no, it’s not religious in its most simple form.  Though, many religions have mindful prayer rituals.

I’ve been practicing mindfulness in one way or another since I was very young.  I remember lying on my bed at night when I couldn’t sleep or when I wanted to get into a quieter sleep, I would bring my attention to my breath.

I would simply think about the in breath and the out breath, not forcing anything big or complicated.  Not fighting with thoughts.  In fact, just as I write this, I remember the orange shag carpeting, the knotty pine wood panelling on the walls, the home made bright orange curtains and bedspread (with corded piping, learned thanks to 4-H), and the feeling of the breath in one nostril, released through the second.  Feeling in this moment intense gratitude for the memory.

And, back to mindfulness.  I’m so thankful it’s not a complicated practice; I’m not really a fan of complicated activity.

So here, for your dining and dancing pleasure, my definition of mindfulness and by extension, mindfulness practice.

First of all, a list of equipment and supplies required:  YOU.  (For detailed instructions,  read this.)

Mindfulness is simply awareness of the present moment.  Period.  That’s the so simple version.  It is about recognising that right here and right now, this is what is.

Next, is allowing.  Very important.  Once you have gathered the equipment you need (YOU!), and you are aware of the moment, allow “what is” to be.  No judgement, no critiquing, no appraisal of any kind.  Just allow.  If there is hurt, allow the hurt.  If there is suffering, allow it to show up, so you can show up.  And let it be.

Mindful awareness is about being in the right now. It is NOT about denial.

When we fall into the “what ifs” or the next scenario, or the future grieving, or celebrating, and the “one day” mentality, we are not practicing mindfulness.   Mindfulness is about being wherever we are.  If we are working on our finances and things are a little tense, it’s about being in the moment with the tension, breathing it in and sitting with whatever we’re experiencing at the moment.

When we practice, and we learn to sit with awareness, and it is practice, because even the most enlightened and aware among us, still needs to practice, it’s a little easier to see what needs to be done.  And extra bonus, it’s a little easier to find answers.

Recently I allowed myself to become frantic, and exacerbated by a situation that was out of my control.  The only thing I allowed was for my mind to go to the fear place and the longer I stayed, the more I became overwhelmed to the point of crying.  A total monkey-mind experience.  Then, thankfully, I had a moment of light:  take time to be still.  Of course.

The moment of light came when I had, funnily enough (or maybe not that funny!), just counselled someone else that chasing for answers, is like chasing a jack rabbit:  it’s way faster than I am and I’ll never catch it.  Be still, I told her, and listen, and the answers will come to you.

And, to be clear, mindfulness practice doesn’t require sitting in lotus position for hours on end, the beauty of it is that it can be done anytime, anywhere – sitting, walking, doing dishes, shopping, knitting, painting, eating, cooking, changing a diaper.  You get the idea.

So many of us are juggling buckets of things all at the same time.  And it’s very easy to lose our focus when we have too much going on, and nothing gets the “intention” it deserves.   Taking a moment to pause, breathe, allow, can and will make our lives easier.

Sheryl xo

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