Guest blog post written by Leslie Clark, LCSW

Mindfulness… What is it really?

Many people think mindfulness is a practice requiring great focus and technique. Some think it may not be accessible to them. I have heard others say, “It seems like some sort of trend or fad.” The reality is mindfulness is a practice that can easily become a lifestyle for anyone.

Often it feels like life is happening to us, like we are just a bystander needing an umbrella, weapon, or defense mechanism to protect us from potential chaos. Mindfulness allows you to take a step back and have more control in situations as they unfold. Perhaps you may even have an influence on the outcome. Mindfulness gives you the ability to start looking for what’s right in your life, instead of focusing on what’s wrong.

Mindfulness allows you to watch a fire burning while noticing the colors, the scent, the crackle, and embracing the peace that it can bring. It allows you to listen to music and perhaps notice the different instruments and voices. How does it make you feel? Energized for the big game, calm for a relaxing bath, reminiscent of the past?

Many of us may not even motice the roses, let alone take the time to smell them. Take those extra few moments to enjoy and appreciate what is around you. That’s mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. Mindfulness is paying attention…on purpose…without judgment. Often we may be overwhelmed with feelings, tasks, obligations, perceived failures, or even achievements. Sometimes life becomes so much to juggle that we become mindless. We just “go through the motions.” We zone out until we reach the place where “the grass is greener.”

Have you ever said any of these things to yourself? “When I get that promotion…” “When I pay off that debt…” “When I lose weight…” “When I am retired…” “…then life starts.” The practice of mindfulness allows us to be in the here and now. We can then recognize life IS already happening. We ask ourselves, “What am I going to miss out on by not being present today?” A wise man once said to me, “There is no present like the time” (instead of saying “There is no time like the present.”) Take a moment to think about what that truly means.

Mindfulness entails using your five senses to bring you back to the present moment. Often our brains wander. This is what they are made to do. You may revert back to something that happened last week, a meeting you have next week, or the groceries that you need to pick up this evening. Our bodies may become physically tense and sometimes activate an attached emotional response. How often has this happened to you? Can you usually identify what caused the upset? Did you even think to question the source or your ability to manage the situation?

I remember as a kid lying on the grass and looking for objects and shapes in the clouds. Why do we stop doing these things? Have we become too busy to stargaze? Does it mean we are lazy if we take time to appreciate what is around us? Absolutely not. This is the essence of life. I finally understand what it means to “stop and smell the roses.” Many of us may not even notice the roses, let alone take the time to smell them. Take those extra few moments to enjoy and appreciate what is around you. That’s mindfulness.

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