What is Mindfulness Exactly

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The term mindfulness is thrown around a lot lately and it’s with good reason. Living through a pandemic has been uncharted territory for all of us. With businesses closing, seemingly healthy people dying, and lives being disrupted, we are all grasping for any sense of grounding at this time.

Having time to center ourselves is more important than ever

When I looked up the definition of mindfulness for this blog post, it wasn’t surprising that found many. After much research, I settled on the Cambridge dictionary’s definition. They have defined mindfulness as “the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment…”. I thought that was an excellent definition as to how I look at mindfulness.

Mindfulness is defined as “the practice of being aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment.”

It seems a lot of people use the term mindfulness in place of the word meditation. It actually doesn’t mean meditation at all. However those terms can be interconnected. Let’s look at that. 

scrabble pieces spelling "be here now"

Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Do We Need To Meditate To Embrace Mindfulness?

That is the question, isn’t it? Do we NEED to meditate to embrace mindfulness? In a short answer: No. I have researched this subject in depth from psychologists to Buddhists.

The common ground is that mindfulness is a form of meditation. It doesn’t result from the act of meditating. 

For me, mindfulness ultimately means living in the present. That is something I work on every single day.

I personally find that very hard to do.  As I write posts concerning mindfulness, it isn’t meant to lecture. I am simply sharing what I am learning on my journey.

Like many people, I have tried to meditate and I have not succeeded – YET. Quieting my mind is exceptionally hard. However, like anything I attempt, I choose not to give up.

Mindfulness Without Meditation

Because the formality of meditating is hard for me, I have adapted my own process for quieting my mind each day. What I have learned is that stress is the culprit that precludes me from living a life of mindfulness.

Stress comes from a reactionary posture. Without planning we are thrust into reacting to the world around us. Therefore, every day I make a plan and do my best to stick to it.

This has been the single biggest change that I have made in my life and the results have been amazing! 

By taking all of my tasks and placing them on my calendar as events, I create daily plans. I am booked pretty solid from morning until night, but within the plan is time set aside to breathe. 

During this time, I stop myself for snippets of time to just sit quietly and think, center, and observe. It is nothing formal and I may not even move from where I am.

Closing my eyes and allowing myself intentional time to reflect really puts perspective on my day.  

The Battle of Goals vs. Mindfulness

If you haven’t already discerned from this website, I am a Type A, driven, motivated, and self-directed personality.

With that comes the natural tendency to always be focused on goals and moving forward in life. That in and of itself is in direct opposition to mindfulness. Hence my struggle. Can you relate?

Before I can begin to attempt mindfulness, I have to clear my head. Yes, those are two different things. Here are the steps I use to stop my mind so that I can proceed with any form of mindfulness: 

Stop and look at your surroundings.

I am lucky to live in a place that I often describe as Eden. It is so physically beautiful here that appreciating my surroundings is an easy task. If you are surrounded by clutter, junk, dust, or the like, take steps to change your immediate visual periphery.

Find things to smile about.

Do you have a loving pet, a beautiful child, or a flourishing garden? Find something that makes you smile every single day and cherish it. Allow yourself to smile often.

Enjoy the endorphins.

Some people may hate working out. Personally, I love it. Our bodies release endorphins when we exercise. Endorphins help to relieve stress. From here you can do the math. Give your body the gift of an endorphin rush.

Journal your blessings

Honestly, the act of writing down what you are truly thankful for is incredibly satisfying. Again, stress comes from the feeling of having little or no control over situations. When you have a tangible list of the gifts from life, it helps to calm your nerves. If journaling isn’t your thing, keep a mental list and repeat it often.

Take Time To Feel The Air On Your Skin

I find that reminding myself of mindfulness on a daily basis is necessary to stay centered. I read an interesting article that focused on the simple act of breathing and feeling the air on your skin as a means of centering yourself. 

I thought it was an interesting concept to not feel the breeze on your skin, but to feel the air on your skin. There can be a stillness in the air and you can still feel it.

I never realized that until many years ago when we first took a trip to Vail, Colorado. Vail is an amazing place if you are looking for a great mountain getaway. Mountain air, beautiful scenery, and a calming environment.

The very first time I was there, I recall sitting on a rock on the bank of Gore Creek. Even though there were hundreds of people around me, maybe thousands, it was wonderfully centering to be there. That was the first time in my life I could sit quietly and feel the air on my skin.

a wooden pier with a person sitting and looking out over a river and mountains

Photo by S Migaj on Unsplash

Finally, achieving mindfulness

It was quite an epiphany. It is hard for me to slow down. When I finally did, I felt enlightened. This is where I need to be to start to heal.

Once I can clear my head and quite my thoughts, I use these four techniques to settle into mindfulness. 

  • Silence distractions
  • Let go of stresses that I cannot control
  • Live in the moment
  • Breathe and feel the air on my skin.

Like many people, over the last couple of years I have taken on an immense amount of stress.

Much of it has been brought on with the pandemic. We also chose to move out of state, which is never a stress-free situation. There are health issues, my children live in another country, and our family has been separated for months at a time. Then of course, we are all just trying to stay clear of this virus.

I allow myself a few hours a day while I work to accept that I will have stress during that time.

Over the last many years that I have worked freelance, I have learned that when I am finished for the day, I am done. I turn off my computer and the light in my room. Then I walk away and shut the door. That is the end of my stress time.

Finding ways to let go of distractions which bring on stress has been the biggest release for me to achieve mindfulness. It’s amazing how distracted we all are with our cell phones and technology. I love technology and cannot imagine living without it. But limiting the time in which I allow myself to be distracted is huge burden lifted.  

From there, we heal. 

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Designer, Organizer, Mom, Retired Athlete, Yoga Junkie, and Travel Enthusiast

Ellen Phillips

Living a Beautiful Life