Last month I grabbed the “Yoga Journal: The Power of Mindfulness” from the magazine rack at the store in preparation for this year’s blogging adventure. I have often heard the word “mindfulness” and have been curious how it applies to life other than being mindful of others, especially when interacting with people different from you.
The Oxford Dictionary (thank you, search engine) defines mindfulness as:
- the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something
- a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
The mindfulness themed yoga magazine talks at length about tips and small actions we can do in our own lives throughout the day or seasons to be present, thoughtful about our experiences and find greater meaning in our lives. Mediation is one aspect of mindfulness. This can be done in a spiritual sense (such as prayer or focusing on a specific verse or passage) or through non-spiritual guided meditation. Research has shown there are quite a few benefits from meditation such as easing pain, managing anxiety and depression, and boosting brain function.
If you have followed me at all you know stillness and being quiet are difficult for me. My prayer time comes most easily in the shower, during my commute and when my anxiety is mounting. All good places for re-centering my attention on something other than myself. But quiet, focused prayer/mediation is not a practice I run to, even weekly.
There are a few times in my life I remember being involved in guided prayer. I remember them vividly. I also participated in an experience room at a conference I attended in college. It was calming and tethered my weary heart and busy mind to a subject for the 30 minutes as I purposefully wandered through the room. When I need a mental break I will often find myself back in that room, going through the experiences again. I am grateful for these memories.
You may be like me and meditation just doesn’t come naturally. I think this is why they call it a “practice”. We can all find ways to slow down for a few minutes, to quiet our minds, to search our memories to tie our minds to peace and tranquility. Our practice can also create new habits. For me, practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean I have to become someone I’m not. It’s allowing myself to slow down. If it is meditation for a few minutes, a specific prayer time or just recalling a gentle memory which taught me something or brought me joy that lowers my anxiety and makes me ready to get on with my day, I’d say it’s worth the few minutes.
Enjoy a few minutes of mindfulness practice this week. I will be taking this to heart this week as well.