Does mindfulness seem a little inaccessible? Something you don’t have time for? The thought of getting the kids involved seems impossible? Something your children just aren’t up for?
What if we simplify mindfulness? Cut to the core. Mindfulness explained. Mindfulness made easy. It is inevitable, the more we all talk about it, the more popular mindfulness becomes, the more it is shared, and its original meaning is changed, edited, adapted… Maybe the changes work for some, that’s great, but there are a few ideas that come up ALL THE TIME when I talk about mindfulness.
So I wanted to take the time to dispel a few myths…
1. mindfulness is not about clearing your mind
I asked what people’s biggest challenge with mindfulness was in my Facebook group a few weeks ago and everyone who answered said clearing their mind, or sitting with their thoughts.
The point of mindfulness is not to clear your mind, for even the most seasoned. The idea is to notice the busyness of your mind and observe it without jumping in and playing with it. If you do get pulled in, don’t beat yourself up about it, be kind. We are thinking, cognitive beings and we are SUPPOSED to think. Mindfulness is about observing those thoughts, as if you are a third party. See them. Be curious about them. Let them go.
2. Mindfulness is not (necessarily) about sitting still in the lotus position
Of course you CAN, but you don’t have to.
Gently and kindly take a moment in your day to pause. Bring your attention to your mind and your body. Are you holding tension? In your forehead? Shoulders? Is your mind rushing into the future? Notice what is happening and gently bring yourself back into the moment. Try a deep, wide, slow breath in through your nose. Notice how it feels in your body. What sensations can you feel? Where can you feel it in the body? Breathe out slowly, through the nose or mouth, keeping the exhalation longer than the inhalation.
If you need a little grounding, bring your attention to each of your senses – close your eyes and notice something you can hear, feel, smell, taste and lastly open your eyes and focus on something you can see.
Try some gentle movement, go for a walk. You can do any of these anywhere!
3. Mindfulness is not something you have to make time for
This is a big one. Another thing to DO. To feel like we should be doing, finding time for. But that is just the point. We don’t have to find more time, unless you can and you want to.
You can pause, tune into yourself whenever you like. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh talks about ‘doing the dishes, to do the dishes’, rather than doing the dishes to have clean plates. By focusing on the feeling of the water, the soap, the motion of cleaning, rather than thinking of the fact we will have clean plates so can eat lunch and move onto the next task and on and ON…
We talk about having a pause button on top of our heads with the kids in Mindful Magic and it’s the same for adults. A mini reset.
4. Mindfulness is not something we have to learn or teach our kids
5. you JUST cannot fail at mindfulness
Are we just wired to think we have to achieve? Always be DO-ing more? Aiming for the next goal?
Mindfulness just isn’t something you can fail at. We don’t learn mindfulness – we discover it within us, peel back the layers and maybe just need to be shown it is deep in there.
6. you can think about the past and the future
Mindfulness is living in the present, they say. This, I think, can be confusing. It IS living in the moment but you can also look to the future and reflect on the past. The point is to do so consciously, intentionally, mindfully and gently.
Our minds are not actually neurologically capable of thinking of more than one thing at a time, despite the idea of (women) ‘multi-tasking’. We swap, rapidly, from one to the other. So of course plan ahead, but trying to do so when you are mid-another task will clutter and busy your mind…
7. mindfulness is not a quick fix
Mindfulness is not a magic wand, but it does take the edge off, slows us down. It offers some space for us to SEE what is happening inside us rather than being caught up in it.
The idea is simple. Noticing, awareness, observing ourselves. But the reality is that we have busy, busy lives and thinking, crazy brains and we worry we aren’t doing it right, that we can’t switch off and I am here to say that is absolutely okay!
I actually love the fact that it is not a magic wand. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, right? I love the slow burners, the ones that stick with you. That is where the magic happens…