When I first read about mindfulness, I instantly wrote it off because I thought mindfulness was a lot about meditation and I swore that meditation did not work for me. I tried to meditate before and to be honest, it felt very weird and awkward just sitting and listening to someone’s prerecorded track about breathing or guided imagery. I tried it a few times, and it did not make me feel any different. It could have been that I was not giving it a chance or expecting some magical feeling that never came.
However, I discovered that there are so many other ways to practice mindfulness than just meditation. Meditation can be helpful, in many ways and if it is something that can be helpful for you, then please continue working at it.
Mindfulness to me is about re-centering and recalibrating yourself in times when it feels like your thoughts, feelings or behaviors are out of control. Mindfulness could and should be used in a time when you are not in distress, as well, I do believe mindfulness is easier achieved when calm and collected.
I read an analogy that I feel is so fitting to what mindfulness can be and how powerful it truly is. A magician cuts his body into many parts and places each part in a different region—hands in the south, arms in the east, legs in the north, and then by some miraculous power lets forth a cry that reassembles whole every part of his body. Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle that can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life. Hanh*
I know when times get tough for me, my sleep suffers the most. A mindfulness exercise that helps me relax and gets me out of my head is this. I close my eyes and start counting down from 100. Every number that I count I take a deep breath right after. I do this until I get to 1. The whole process takes about 7 to 10 minutes and to be honest, I usually have to do it about 2x and then I find myself super relaxed, almost like I am at the spa and I am ready to fall into a deep sleep.
Mindfulness is referred to as mindfulness practice because it’s not just something someone does just once or is done perfectly the first time. Because mindfulness is different for each person, one must “practice” mindfulness regularly for it to be truly effective. We live in a world with constant distractions, not just the regular everyday stuff. We contend with the “noise” of our constant connection to the world, our phones, social media, radio, TV., etc. It takes constant practice to be able to see these things as distractions and place them in a compartment in our minds so we can give our body and brains a break. Working through mindfulness exercises like deep breathing and paying close attention to your 5 senses, brings us back to the natural human in us, one that requires connection to body, soul, and spirit, which in turn gives us a time to recharge and be ready for what life brings next. There is no magic solution to connecting with yourself, but I have found that when I do practice mindfulness and engage in it, I am more centered and prepared.
*Hanh TN. The Miracle of Mindfulness. Boston: Beacon Press; 1976. Page 14