What Is Mindfulness?

Laura Lash

Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have infused our pop-culture. Even if you have not partaken in these practices, you may recognize yoga poses happening in a yogurt commercial or Buddha jokes in a print ad. Acupuncture has a place in chiropractic offices and some health insurance plans are including Eastern medicine in their coverage. Whether it’s an antidote to the inundation of screens in our life, or simply a wave of international culture touching down in the good ol’ US of A, mindfulness is mainstreaming. Celebrities such as Christy Turlington, the Seattle Seahawks, and Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of the movie Birdman, have publicly shared their gratitude for a regular mindfulness practice.

One of my teachers shared with me: “Stress is the resistance to what is actually happening.” Mindfulness can reduce stress by having you pay attention to what is, not what was or what should be. It is the careful observation of what is happening in the present moment. It is sitting, standing or walking with focus. It even pertains to talking and listening. Simply put, mindfulness is doing one thing at a time and opening yourself up to all the elements that make up that one thing, letting all of your senses be triggered by this one object of your focus. My grandmother saying the rosary, a drummer at a live show, a NASCAR driver: all examples I’ve seen of someone being so very in the moment that everything else falls away. 

Mindfulness is a practice unto itself and can stand apart from yoga and meditation; that’s the beauty of it, especially in its modern form. It can be found anywhere, any time. It is up to you to tune in.

So how do you get started? It doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating. Mindfulness is the observation of life’s precious, small moments. So start small. Take time out of your day to utilize your senses and experience an entire moment right where you are.

Here are a few ways to dip your toe in:

• Enjoy a quiet meal without reading a book or watching TV.

• When you notice a loved one concentrating hard on a task, watch their face rather than their task and breathe deeply.

• If you sit down to watch TV or talk on the phone – don’t do anything else at the same time. Notice your sitting posture, get comfortable and do only that watching/talking thing.