Mindfulness: the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
What does that mean in your everyday life? For me, it means fully engaging in every task. Whether I’m folding laundry, vacuuming, doing dishes, playing with my children, or doing yoga, I am fully aware of all that is happening. I am taking time to notice how deeply I am breathing. I am noticing every smell, color, and texture that is involved.
I didn’t master mindfulness overnight. And I still struggle with it A LOT! That’s okay, though. All that matters is that I put a conscious effort into REALLY focusing on the task at hand.
Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
I didn’t know the cause of my anxiety. All that I knew was that I had to learn how to control it, before it controlled me. I would get panic attacks and anxiety almost daily. Some days, it was so intense that my chest would hurt, I would get dizzy, and my heart would flutter. It scared me. It HURT! Why was I in pain from something so silly?!
So I started to research. I read every article, blog, and post about anxiety. There seemed to be too much information about it. It seemed that our society was suffering from it as a whole. I knew there had to be a better way to live. I didn’t want to constantly be battling my feelings, my husband, my kids, and my work life! I wasn’t happy.
I started meditating. I didn’t understand how to do it at first. I felt like I was getting nowhere. That’s the thing, though! Meditation isn’t about going anywhere. It is about being exactly where you are. It took me months of practice to realize that there wasn’t going to be a magic moment of enlightenment. My anxiety wasn’t going to just disappear without a trace. But, I stuck with it. There were months that I didn’t meditate, not even for five minutes. But I always came back to it, in hopes that it was my magic cure. But It was only part of the cure.
It took almost two years of meditating. But, I still had the anxiety every day. So I started yoga. I had always tried it, this time I was serious, though. Something had to work. I needed to be able to enjoy my life with my children.
Yoga worked! I started to live in the moment. At least, while I was doing yoga. Shortly after I was done with each session, I realized my feelings of panic would slowly start to creep back in. My chest would tighten, and I would start to make lists of everything I needed to get done. I started thinking that accomplishing all of these tasks might ease the worry. Behold! The lists made my anxiety worse. And the yoga only helped while I was on my yoga mat. Something was still missing from the puzzle….
Then one day it hit me! It was so simple. How had I missed it?! It had been right in front of me this whole time. I was sitting and staring at the wall. The house was quiet. I had nothing to focus on, except the lines on the wall. I started tracing them in my mind. The swirling pattern of the paint. The texture looked so inviting to touch; so I touched it. I noticed how it felt under my fingers. The way the sun light settled on the wall was amazing. Everything was perfect. There it was; I had finally figured it out!!! I had not been living in the moment. That’s it. That’s all it was. I was always thinking ahead. Always thinking of my next chore, my next shift, my next fight with my husband. So I made a deal with myself. I was going to focus on the ‘now‘ more often. Staring at that wall reminded me of the feeling of being a child. I remember being a kid and staring at the ceiling, counting ceiling boards. No worries, no problems, just me and the ceiling. It took me back to that mindfulness that all children possess.
After that, everything became more magical. I still had anxiety, but I could sometimes stop the panic attacks. I could slow my breathing. I felt everything! I started to feel every texture. I smelled every smell. I saw every color for what it was. I learned to breathe through every moment. Yoga became spiritual. I had always felt great and focused while doing yoga, yet, now it was even more so. I could feel every part of my body during a yoga flow. And after a yoga practice I could meditate, and just BE. Meditation became second nature. I could do it in the car, or at work, or while playing with my kids(obviously not traditional meditation with your eyes closed). And when an anxiety attack started to creep in, I would find something to focus on. Anything would work. I always seemed to choose a wall, or a ceiling. I would take a deep breath in, hold onto it for a few seconds, and then let it go. Then, I would count the ceiling tiles, or notice how many nails were in the wall. I would try to see what other sensations I was aware of; things like how cold the room was, how bright the lights were, what smell was surrounding me. Magic!
I still keep long lists of things to accomplish. But, now I realize that those lists aren’t life. I can accomplish what I can accomplish; no more. I have to find the ‘now’ in every day. If one of those loads of laundry has to wait to be folded, so be it.
Now, I absolutely enjoy house work, where I used to loathe it. If I am folding laundry I take in each fabric’s color, texture, and smell. I feel the warmth still lingering from the dryer. I let it surround me. Each piece of clothing gets lovingly folded. While doing dishes each dish gets my full attention. I feel the warmth of the water, and enjoy the smell of the soap. When I vacuum, I listen to the sound of the vacuum, I watch it slowly glide across the floor, I listen for the sound of the dirt being sucked up. And then I slowly empty the full dirt canister, making sure not to accidentally dump some on the freshly cleaned floor. When I bathe my children, I notice every smooth inch of skin. I smell their sweet scent, and run my fingers through their wavy hair. I gently scrub every inch of their little bodies with so much care and LOVE. That’s what mindfulness is. It is love. Love for everything. Every sensation, and every feeling. It is love for this moment. It is love for the simplicity that makes everything beautiful in it’s own way.
I encourage you to live mindfully. I encourage you to love. Love all that surrounds you. pour your tea slowly. Take each bite of food and feel every texture on your tongue. Find the most insignificant object in your house, and truly look at it. Appreciate it for what it is. Find something about it that you have never noticed before; maybe it’s cracked, or flawed, but still perfect. Try and remember the feelings of being a child. Look around the room and notice something that you would have noticed as a child. You will start to realize that each moment can be magic. We don’t have to live with our anxiety. We don’t have to rush on to the next moment, the next day, the next week, or the next year. We can be here. We can be totally in love with EVERYTHING! We can learn to love our chores, and our mundane tasks. And at the end of the day you can come to the realization that you accomplished exactly what you were meant to; no more, no less. Everything is just right, just as it should be. You just have to choose to notice.
Here is a list of 10 steps to becoming more mindful everyday:
- Notice what you are feeling. Are you anxious, sad, angry, or are you happy?
- Take a deep breath through your nose, hold for three seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Notice how your chest rises and falls. Repeat as needed.
- After breathing, try and notice the smell of the room. Is it a good smell? If it isn’t try lighting a candle or incense.
- Notice the lighting of the room. Is it too bright, is it not bright enough?
- Find an object to focus on. Take in everything about the object. It’s texture, color, it’s smell if it has one. Try and notice something about it that you have never noticed before.
- While doing a task, give it all of your attention, while breathing deeply.
- If you are outside, look up at the clouds. Listen to the sound of birds, or whatever is present at the time. Take in the fresh scents. Touch a plant and see what kind of texture it has. (this is also important for grounding, which will be discussed in future posts)
- If you are with your children really listen to them. Look them in the eye while they speak. Take in every part of their face. Maybe they have a freckle you have never even noticed! See how excited they are. Children are naturally curious, excited, and mindful. Follow their lead and see what they can tell you about the world around them. And ask them questions you have never asked before.
- While with your significant other, give them all of your attention as well. Look in their eyes. LISTEN! Give them a hug that lasts longer than usual.
- JUST BE HERE NOW!
These are just some of the things to get you started on your own mindfulness journey. Along the way you will find so many other ways to be fully aware. Just remember to breath. It all starts with our breath. Life giving breath can also remind us to live life now.
Cheers, and Have a great mindful day!!!
There are great books about mindfulness, breathing, and yoga available on Amazon….Mindfulness Books