Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness, as I see it, is making space for what is happening in this moment. It is allowing ourselves to become the space in which we allow this moment to happen, in which we allow ourselves to become aware of what is happening and experience it without attributing meaning to it, so we can choose a response that is aligned with our preferences instead of our socialization and / or conditioning.

Normally, when something happens, we have an automated reaction. For instance when you live where I live and you notice it is raining, your response most likely will be: “Yuck, it’s raining!” When you practice mindfulness, your first response is hitting the pause button and then you allow yourself to become aware of what is happening, you become the observer, the witness of your own reaction. You hear yourself thinking: “Yuck, it is raining!”, then you notice your mood and your shoulders dropping. And then you can decide if you choose to be down for the rest of the day because of some normal meteorological occurrence, or if you would rather focus on something that makes you feel good and have a great day, and maybe even enjoy the sensation of raindrops falling on your face.
Practicing mindfulness is hitting the pause button. Hitting that pause button, even if that happens after you had a full-blown reaction, is always cause for celebration. Always. Because when you hit that pause button, you break a habitual pattern and you are in that moment rewiring your brain, you are retraining your mind. And every time you remember to hit the pause button the new wiring gets stronger and you’ll remember to hit it just a tad sooner next time, until one day you notice that you actually hit it before the thing that triggered you turned into a thought, into an emotion and then into an automated reaction, and you are free to choose your response in a way that enhances your life and that of others.

I started practicing mindfulness about twenty years ago, without knowing anything about this ancient mystical practice or its name, by observing my reaction to meteorological phenomena after I read Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Starting with something that was reasonably small that I had absolutely no influence over was an easy way to become acquainted with how I reacted to life (how you do one thing you do everything), and to become not only an observer to this reaction, but also become response-able for creating a new and preferred response. Over time, this practice has spilled into every area of my life. It is an ongoing practice that will last a life-time and that allows me to become more and more aware of this thing called Life. In combination with my deep desire to be happy for no reason, mindfulness has been the catalyst for my transformation from feeling utterly powerless and being clinically depressed to feeling empowered and living a joy-filled and meaningful life.

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

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