Sometimes we are so caught up in “life” itself that we don’t realize how full our minds are and we lose sight of so many other things. When I first saw this picture I thought it was an amazing visual representation on what it means to be mindful. Ask yourself this, “Am I mindful or is my mind full?” Really think about that.
I found my answer to be that my mind was always full. It was always filled with everyday things and I didn’t realize how much joy that was taking away from my life. My mind was filled with things like relationships, work or school, anxiety, depressive thoughts, negative thoughts about the world and myself; the list goes on. I was always consumed by my thoughts. I first learned about mindfulness while attending a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) group about 6 years ago. Mindfulness means to be aware of the moment that you are in while just observing and noticing the things around you as well as your thoughts without judgments. How hard is it to be mindful I thought? Well, for me, that was pretty difficult. I always found myself judging either what was around me or the thoughts that were inside of my head. It really felt like a constant turmoil. That’s a place, that I believe, many of us find ourselves in. We don’t stop in order to just be mindful. I had my work cut out for me in practicing this technique while I was attending the group and individual DBT focused therapy. Challenge accepted…
I remember the first time I truly felt the calmness of being mindful and present, in the moment. It was a sunny day outside and I was enjoying some time in the pool. I began thinking about being mindful and was set on doing just that. So I began to float on the water and closed my eyes. I paid attention to what I was experiencing while using my senses. In my mind the dialogue kind of went like this…I hear the birds, I feel the warm sun on my face, I smell the chlorine, I am floating, I am in the cool water and I am peaceful. Now picture doing that along with all the judgments. I picture it going like this…the birds are super annoying, its too hot out here, the chlorine smells horrible, etc. I just pointed out those things without judgments and it truly gave me a sense of calmness and peace. For the first time, I was truly being mindful. It was an incredible experience.
It almost seems like an easy thing to do and it’s definitely not. It’s automatic for us to add these judgments onto things. It’s honestly natural in my opinion. I’ll be the first to admit I’m still guilty of doing that. But with that said, I am certainly more mindful in situations and will continue to be as long as I keep practicing this technique. Sometimes I have to stop and tell myself to be mindful. I literally have to tell my brain “time to clear out”, and then I work on getting myself into a more mindful place by noticing and observing everything around me. Remember, NO judgments.
We did mindfulness exercises a lot in the DBT group. A great exercise that I love to do is to go sit outside with a journal and write down what you are experiencing by using your senses. What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you see? What do you feel (physically)? What can you taste? Believe me, I’ve done this many times and it is so helpful. Name these things for what they are, not what you feel they should be or what you want them to be. Name them without judgments. That’s pretty important in being mindful, hence why I keep repeating it.
The real challenge is getting to a place of mindfulness while you’re in a certain situation such as work for example. Sometimes I literally have to stop and say okay, I see this or that, or I hear this or that. Even if it’s for 2 minutes, that calmness is worth it. At times we need to take a step back and just observe and not let our thoughts and judgments consume us. We need to focus on being mindful instead of allowing our minds to be full. You’ll notice those little things you were always missing and that alone will bring you a sense of joy and peace. At least that is what it has done for me. I would be lying if I said I was this way all of the time. I’m not. My mind was pretty full before I started writing this. But this is where I am at now; I smell the detergent on my sheets, I hear my music through my headphones, feel the air from my fan on my face, I feel the keyboard under my fingers and I my mint flavored gum. I am being mindful, in the moment, without judgments. I feel calm for the first time today. It’s so worth working on being mindful each day. It took time and energy to practice being mindful and it didn’t happen overnight for me. It took me a few months before I really felt that calmness like I felt in the pool that particular day.
Give mindfulness a shot one day. Then ask yourself the same question I mentioned above, “Am I mindful or is my mind full?”
Comment with your experience if you do try it out and would like to share.