What’s So Special About Mindfulness?
I recently taught a workshop on mindfulness to school counselors. Afterwards, a woman approached and shared that she had been moved to tears as I wrapped up the training and spoke from the heart, reminding everyone how special they are, how special this moment is, and how their contribution to our world makes a difference. Although my words seemingly had a positive impact on her, the truth is that her heart was stirred by the practice of mindfulness. It was not my words alone. She allowed herself to be fully present, to be open, to draw in the space she was in on every level. She was practicing mindfulness, and THIS is what makes it so special.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, describes mindfulness as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” often adding “…in the service of self-understanding and wisdom.” I could just hug this guy—not only for his wisdom in helping to bring mindfulness practices to the world of healthcare and beyond, but because he had the love and wherewithal to profoundly shape people’s lives in a positive direction.
Mindfulness goes beyond thoughts, words, and actions and evokes something within you. It naturally awakens an inner connection to something bigger and also makes your present experience richer. It makes you feel unbelievably special—like everything that you are experiencing right now was made just for you. If you are currently feeling stressed, mindfulness practices also offer ways to get through those times with greater ease.
Being mindful may seem like common sense, like something we are all well-adept at doing when we are seemingly focused. But, how many times have you been doing something, engaged in the undertaking (e.g. driving, texting, or “listening” to someone you disagree with), only to find that your mind is actually elsewhere? You think that you are truly focusing on what you are doing, but in reality, you are not. Mindfulness, on the other hand, is consciously bringing all of your attention to the present moment. It often takes effort and is more than a singular practice that necessitates concentration (i.e. yoga, meditation, etc.); it is a way of life.
The beautiful Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh shared an incredible story in his book “The Miracle of Mindfulness.” When he first entered the monastery, he recalls being given a small book called “The Essential Discipline for Daily Use” written by the Buddhist monk Doc The. The book contained thoughts that Doc used to focus his mind during the day. The mind-blowing thing about Doc’s thoughts is that they not only focused his mind on the task at hand, but they also offered a wish or hope for others. “Just awakened, I hope that every person will attain great awareness and see in complete clarity,” or “Washing my hands, I hope that every person will have pure hands to receive reality.” He created a tool that helps people to remain present in the moment while also stirring compassion in their hearts for others.
Why not try to bring all of your attention and focus to your next task and give Doc The’s recipe a whirl? By reminding yourself of what you are doing, your mind stays with the action. (Say to yourself “Brushing my teeth” and notice the feel of the brush on your teeth, the taste of the toothpaste, the fragrance of mint. Remember, you are lucky to be brushing your teeth. People are fleeing their homes around the world without the smallest conveniences we often take for granted.) Then offer a heartfelt wish (“May all of our mouths be clean and healthy and may what we share from our mouths be music to someone’s heart.”) Be fully present, embrace your tasks with all your attention and senses, and then open your heart and offer a kind wish for others.
Mindfulness waters the garden of the heart and brings clarity to vision. Explore mindfulness for yourself and remember:
You are special.
This moment—right now—is special.
Your contribution to our world makes a difference.