Mindfulness… What the heck is that?

Written by Emilee Trudo

In the age of “life-coaching” and toxic positivity (the idea that just having a positive outlook will fix everything) I find it crucial that I present TruConnection’s “Connect to Self” as a journey led by you, the client.  As much as I love the ‘New Age’ culture, and the vital and ancient teachings that this culture sprang from, I will not preach that monthly massages, reiki, and a strict all organic vegan diet, with some detached, thoughtless positivity sprinkled in, will solve all of our emotional and physical needs.  Instead, it’s forming an intimate, loving, supportive, accepting, and nurturing relationship with one’s self. All of these wonderful tips, tricks, and lifestyles mean and accomplish nothing if we are not mindful of what we need, why we need it, and how to realistically give this to ourselves. This, is what is daunting to people…because often times we don’t know how to start that process…or how to pick up where we let off.  All we hear is, “mediate more!” and “stretch everyday!”, but how helpful are those broad and often easier-said-than-done comments? Not very. We have to practice mindfulness.  That’s the only way.  Maybe some of you have only heard (and therefore, associated) mindfulness with yoga, meditation, and eating.  But mindfulness is not limited to those activities and can be turned on at any moment.  The hardest part is remembering that. It’s also quite easy to be mindful when we feel at peace.  It takes a lot less effort and initiation to be mindful while laying on a beach, feeling the sun and breeze on your skin, the sea-salt aroma caressing your soul, the sand comforting those achy muscles, the waves cleansing the weight of the world from your body… but what about in a traffic jam? Or in a busy line at the grocery store? Or when your car breaks down? What about two days after intense labor when your body feels broken? What about after a break-up? Or the loss of a loved one? These are the times when mindfulness is not only necessary and helpful, but also a catalyst for growth.  To create understanding of mindfulness, I have broken down the practice into three different (and complimentary) approaches to initiating it that I have personally found helpful.

  1. Being Mindful of our Bodies

Often times the stress of our everyday lives gets trapped inside of our muscles, fascia, and joints.  We have gotten really good at compartmentalizing different stressors into what is most important to deal with first, and which we will ignore for now.  These stressors could be from relationships, jobs, children or family, school, finances, health conditions, sickness, etc. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be able to learn how to prioritize, especially when there is a lot of responsibilities to handle, but it becomes dangerous when we use these priorities as excuses for not dealing with the “deep stuff.”  And this emotional “stuff” burrows into our bodies to find a place where they can unfold, since we put mentally unfolding them off. This can add to the creation of knots, stiffness, and achy bodies.

So how do we be mindful about how our bodies feel? It’s quite simple really…just take notes.  Take a mental note (or if you’d prefer, you could write it down or record yourself saying it) of what aches and pains you often complain (inwardly or outwardly) about.  What parts of your body do you find that you touch or self massage throughout the day? For me, I tend to squeeze the part where my neck connects to my shoulders, and I tap my lower back with my fists a lot.  These are two areas of my body that ache more than anywhere else. Sometimes I will even notice that my eyes get a tad wet when my neck really, really hurts.

Then, think about what parts of your days do these complaints really show up to you. Are you sitting at a desk?  Are you walking? Are you helping your children with homework? Note these observations.

The best thing about mindfulness is that you don’t have to figure out the “why”, you just have to notice and make a mental note of it.

2) Being Mindful of our Emotions

The easiest way to be mindful of our emotions is to accept them.  We can get so caught up in what is “okay” or “not okay” to feel and the reasons for those feelings.  Let go of that notion.  Our feelings are valid simply because we feel them.  So, what are you feeling and when are you feeling it?  Does it look like anything in your body? I know that when I am sad, my shoulders hunch and my body automatically tries to make itself smaller. What about you?  What does your body look like when you are happy? Sad? Angry? Worried? What times do you feel like you don’t even know how you feel, but it feels negative or unpleasant?

Just make a note of it.

3) Behind Mindful of our Surroundings

Who or what is around you when you notice these emotional and physical feelings and sensations?  I find that it is the easiest to practice mindfulness (for me) when I start with noticing my surroundings first.

For an example, let’s say I’m driving. I’m listening to my favorite music and singing along.  Then I come to a halt, but do not see any traffic lights. Oh, great, I’m stuck in traffic. What else do I notice?  Well, I’ve stopped singing. I feel…hmm…I feel in a hurry. Okay, noted. Also, my mind has started racing about the 10 things I have to do tomorrow. Ugh, now someone is honking their horn about something that can’t be helped.  Now I’m telling them to “shut up idiot”, and now I feel like I want to scream it, even though they won’t hear. Noted. I am annoyed now. What else do I notice? Being annoyed does not feel good. And my forehead is all tense and scrunched up. Alright…music, I was listening to music.  Let’s pick something I can car dance to, and lose that annoying feeling.

Just by noticing what is happening around me, how I feel in that moment, and what my body is doing (not analyzing, just acknowledging), I can counteract any negativity and create peace within myself.

Mindfulness= acknowledging where you are, your surroundings, how you feel, and how others may feel around you. Like the alcoholics anonymous’ mantra “the first step is admitting” we must admit to ourselves that we are currently feeling/acting/being a certain way, and then secondly we must love ourselves regardless and commit to our own path of growth.  I had a friend one time admit in her intoxicated state that she sometimes has mean/hurtful thoughts about things, and it made her feel like a ‘bad person.’ I immediately responded that the fact that she acknowledges this, and is mindful about what comes of those thoughts–that is all we can do. Everyone has negative or mean thoughts time to time, everyone f***s up…not one of us is perfect!

That is what makes us human!

It will always baffle me–the phenomenon of people being hard on themselves for their human ways (and I am no exception.)  Forgetting, being clumsy, making rash decisions, making mistakes, saying something regrettable, thinking mean or rude thoughts, etc.  We cannot escape these human faults. So let’s embrace them. Let’s love ourselves for trying our best, for seeking help, for having the strength to break habits and patterns…and ultimately, for holding our own hand through this life.

Let’s be mindful of every part of our life…let’s be present in the NOW, let’s be raw and real and honest with ourselves.  It’s the only way to evolve.