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What Mindfulness Isn’t

Now that mindfulness has gone mainstream, there’s some confusion about what the term really means.

To some, mindfulness means you have to take off to India and study with the masters. Others relate it to a serene face (with an opened third eye) and limber bodies effortlessly sitting in lotus position.

While both of these examples can certainly be mindful experiences, you don’t have do either in order to practice mindfulness. There are no special tools or trips necessary to be mindful. You only need to pay attention to what’s in front of you.

Here’s what else mindfulness doesn’t mean …

You Must Meditate For Hours A Day

When many practice meditation, it’s this formal thing that involves a chunk of time marked by a timer, and some sort of anchor to keep the concentration focused, like the breath or a mantra. Mindfulness needs none of that. While you could set a timer to remind yourself to become more mindful throughout the day, it’s not a requirement. And relying on the breath or a mantra, though it could be helpful, isn’t necessary. To practice mindfulness is to instill a sense of presence into your day, anytime and any place.

You Must Do Yoga

Unlike meditation which can get tied up with yoga, the bendy practice is not a prerequisite for mindfulness. You don’t have to be flexible to be mindful. You don’t have to go upside down to be mindful. And you certainly don’t have to get out your yoga mat to be mindful. Think of mindfulness as a layer to add onto whatever you’re doing. So while yogis like to be mindful as they flow through their poses, mindfulness can accompany anything including exercise, cooking, cleaning, talking, and listening to name just a few. You can stand and be mindful. Or you can sit. You can even lie down. Mindfulness doesn’t require a fit body. It likes a fit mind.

You Must Go On Retreat

Mindfulness isn’t some exotic thing that can only be passed on through a guru. You don’t need a certification to be mindful. (Though there are mindfulness trainings to be taken.) Mindfulness is about being right where you are, fully engaged in the moment. So if you’re in the shower, you’re feeling the water drip down your back. If you’re on the running path, you’re feeling your feet hit the ground. And if you’re with your children, you’re hearing everything they say.

So What Is Mindfulness Then?

Mindfulness is about being here now. So at this moment, you’re reading this article. What else is happening in your body? Are your shoulders hunched up by your ears? Are your eyes squinting? As you think about these questions, you’re tuning into your body, becoming more aware of what’s happening. This is the practice of mindfulness. To be mindful means to be present, and the more you do it the easier it will become a way of life.

How do you practice mindfulness? —Elysha

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  1. I like to practice mindful eating–carefully choosing what I will eat, then appreciating the visual, the smells, and of course, the tastes as I eat. It helps to set my fork or spoon down between bites and to fully chew and swallow before taking the next bite. I agree that you don’t need yoga or meditation to be mindful, but I do find the regular practice of both helps me nurture mindfulness. Thanks for a great thought-provoking post.


  2. Susan - ahumbledelight.com says:

    I appreciate this post so much! This was me a few years ago. I feel like this is super important for people that like the idea of meditation but are too scared to start.

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