What is Mindfulness and Why Do We Need it Right Now?

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I’ve long considered myself to be a #mindfulmama but so far I haven’t spoken much on here about what that means or how it translates into daily life with my kids. The concept of mindfulness is simple even if the practice is less easy to implement; to be mindful is just to be present without judgement. This can feel counter-intuitive for us for two reasons: most of us suck at being present and suck at not judging, particularly when it comes to ourselves. These same two points that make mindfulness so difficult for most of us also make them important lessons for us to learn.

With constant access to technology literally at hand, being present just isn’t something that most of our generation excels at. Personally, I have often struggled to curb my penchant for always looking forward to the “next best thing” and just be in the moment. It’s hard not to think “when I meet the right person…” or “when I get a new job…” or “when I lose this weight…” or “when my baby is older…” or ” when my kids are in school full time…” or “when we have a little more money…” but this line of thinking pulls us right out of the joy that exists where we are right now (for anyone currently struggling with this, consider starting a gratitude journal and jotting down a few things you’re grateful for at the end of each day, it has helped me so much!).

The second reason that mindfulness can be hard for us is because is trains us to see without judgment when judgment has become so ingrained in our psyches. From a young age we tend to judge and compare, from schoolyard bullying to online trolls to seemingly harmless stuff like the “Who Wore It Best?” articles in magazines. We have a tendency to want to conform to the norm rather than celebrate our differences, but for many of us the harshest judgment is self-imposed. When mindful practices ask us to be present without judgment, the goal is to really see what’s happening and to refrain from criticizing or even categorizing what we see.

So what does this look like? It’ll be difference for all of us but for me, practicing mindfulness in my day has a lot to do with my inner dialogue. On my most anxious days I might spiral quickly, thinking, “I’m having a hard day with the kids. Their misbehaving means that I’m failing as a mother because I can’t keep them happy. I don’t know why I ever thought I could do this. Tom should leave me for someone more capable.” (I know, what?). If I’m able to be mindful instead and withhold judgment of myself I can be gracious with myself and keep my thoughts from escalating. I might think, “I’m having a hard day with the kids. They’re at difficult ages right now and I’ve been exposed to a lot of overwhelming news stories lately. I feel anxious and impatient.” This simply gives voice to where I’m at and provides clarity without trying to problem solve. If you know you need to make a change like turning off the news, putting away your phone, or going outside, of course you can, and that’s a great idea. But being mindful doesn’t necessitate solutions, it’s more about noticing where you are in the moment and just being okay with it. Which I think we could all use a little more of these days!

For me mindfulness practice is especially important during the time of Corona because ruminating about the future is anxiety-inducing at the moment. Normally I revel in thinking ahead and making plans but there’s just so much uncertainty right now that it’s easier to focus on enjoying the present moment instead. I have definitely had many (many!) moments of exasperation but all in all I’m grateful to be home with my two oblivious children. The blissful, unconcerned way they continue to play and fight and demand snacks has been a refreshing dose of normalcy for me and has kept me grounded in an unexpected way, reminding me that what’s truly important during this frankly weird time is hanging out with the people I love most.

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity, and acceptance of the present-moment reality. It wakes u up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives but also fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.” – Jon Kabat Zinn

 

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