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Mindfulness is not a Four-Letter Word

What happens when you hear the word “mindfulness?” Do you roll your eyes a little bit? 

I get it…even as a therapist who uses a ton of mindfulness in my practice, I sometimes have a reaction to the word "mindfulness." Mindfulness shows up everywhere these days and can start to feel tired and overused. Have you ever tried repeating a word a bunch of times to the point where it loses its meaning? Mindfulness, mindfulness, starts to just sound like a bunch of mouth noises. 

It’s too bad that the word mindfulness can get a little eye roll-y, because it’s such a crucial skill in healing and growth. So can we talk about it, even though it means I’ll have to use the word a bunch more times? 

Let's start with a definition. What is mindfulness? 

To put it the most simply, mindfulness is paying attention to what is happening in the here and now. 

Ideally, that’s done with an attitude of openness and curiosity. It’s the foundation of growth and healing, because without the skill of paying attention we’re all just little balls of reactivity, blindly lashing out based on something buried under the surface. 

Let's dig a little deeper, and talk about what mindfulness is and what it is not. 

Mindfulness is:

  • Paying attention

  • Making a choice to stop and notice

  • Willingly turning towards an experience instead of trying to push it away or numb it out

Mindfulness isn’t:

  • Meditation. Meditation is a formal practice, and it’s often why people say they “can’t” do mindfulness. 

  • Feeling better

  • Feeling more relaxed

  • Clearing your mind. I wish I could find who said this, but a dedicated mindfulness practitioner once quipped “if you can clear your mind you’re either enlightened or dead!” 

Other mindfulness myths:

  • You’re doing it “wrong” if mind wanders or you lose track of a guided meditation. A friend of mine and wise woman once said “mindfulness is just watching your busy mind do its thing” 

  • You’re doing it “wrong” if you don’t instantly feel more relaxed or calm

  • Mindfulness is a goal with a finish line. Nope! It’s a practice, and like all things we practice we’ll have moments of skillfulness and moments where we’re not so skilled. 

Ready for a challenge? Chose to willingly turn towards your experience and try this brief check in:

My mind feels __________ (busy, full, anxious, active, bored)

My body feels __________ (tight, tense, jittery, relaxed)

My emotions feel ________ (sad, angry, frustrated, excited, annoyed, anxious)

Look at you, doing mindfulness like a pro!

Need some help? Want to use mindfulness to live more intentionally and less reactively? I offer a 15 minute complimentary consultation to any interested clients. Schedule yours today.