Mindfulness is an important component of my holistic approach to health and wellness. It’s a big part of everything I teach and share, and it’s a big part of my own daily life. If you’re new to the idea of mindfulness, it can be a little bit confusing at first. So, in this post, I’ll answer the top 4 burning questions about mindfulness my clients routinely ask.
Q 1: Isn’t mindfulness the same thing as meditation?
A: Not really. Mindfulness and meditation are definitely related, but the difference comes down to focus. Mindfulness has an external focus, while meditation has an internal focus.
- Meditation focuses on the inner self. When you meditate, you get still and go deep within to find calm and, ultimately, nothingness.
- Mindfulness focuses on the external environment. It brings your attention to what you’re doing, sensing, or perceiving right this very minute. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment.
I like to think of mindfulness as a doorway to meditation. Mindfulness practices can help you calm your mind and reduce your stress in ways that enhance your meditation efforts. There’s even a type of meditation called mindfulness meditation. If you’re having a difficult time with meditation, try mindfulness practices first. Once you master mindfulness, meditation in all its forms gets easier and easier.I like to think of mindfulness as a doorway to meditation. Click To Tweet
Q 2: How can I tell if I’m doing mindfulness right?
A: You’re doing mindfulness right if you’re doing it. It can be tempting to evaluate your practice, compare yourself to others, judge, reject, and criticize your developing skills and experiences. This will defeat your efforts from the beginning, so don’t go there! You have permission to let go of judgment. No one is grading you, auditing you, or monitoring you on your mindfulness skills.
If you’re intentionally being mindful, and your focus deviates or your mind wanders, simply refocus your intention to be mindful. Keep gently and and kindly returning to the present moment by observing and bringing your attention back to the external object of your focus (your breath, the sensations in your body, a candle, a flower, an image, the flavor of a food, etc).
So many health practices involve tracking, logging numbers, counting, judging, and assessing whether your numbers or other results are within a certain range or not. That’s not the case with with mindfulness. Don’t worry about quantifying how “good” or “bad” your mindfulness is. There is no “right” or “wrong” or “normal range” in mindfulness. There is only the present moment, and your experience of it. It is what it is. As it is. And that’s all there is.
You’re doing mindfulness right if you’re making an effort to be mindful. You can’t do mindfulness wrong, but you can choose not to do it at all. And I’m here to discourage that!You're doing mindfulness right if you're doing it.Click To Tweet
Q 3: Do tai chi and yoga count as mindfulness practices?
A: Sometimes. Physical activities like tai chi and yoga integrate the body and the mind in ways that can lead to fantastic mindfulness and meditation practices. But they’re not necessarily mindfulness practices in and of themselves. That’s because its possible to do tai chi or yoga (or any other physical activity) without being mindful at all. If you’re just going through the motions of the tai chi form or the yoga poses while thinking about your to-do list or what you’ll fix for dinner, then you’re not being mindful.
You can do any physical activity in a mindful or non-mindful way. Most people are NOT mindful with their physical activity. You know you’re not being mindful when your attention is anywhere other than focused on the activity itself. If you’re on your phone while walking, for example, you’re not walking midfully. When you’re performing an activity mindfully, you’re fully present with the activity. Your mind is focused on what you’re doing moment-to-moment, and your senses are engaged with the experience. You can choose to do any physical activity mindfully. Or not.
Mind-body activities like tai chi and yoga are tailor-made for mindfulness. Many of the martial arts forms and yoga poses were designed purposefully to bring awareness to the body, and the mind. Doing the moves correctly requires you to be present with the actions, processes, and alignments of the movement. Whenever you set your intention to engage with an activity mindfully, you’ll likely find yourself needing to consciously and intentionally bring your mind back to the current moment over and over again.You can choose to do any physical activity mindfully. Or not.Click To Tweet
Q 4: Can I integrate mindfulness into my existing wellness practices?
A: Yes! Mindfulness integrates beautifully with other wellness practices. Mindfulness is like any other healthy habit: Start small, attach it to other activities you’re already doing, and reap the rewards. Take opportunities to be mindful multiple times throughout your day and you’ll find that your day goes much more smoothly, and you’ll have more energy at the end of it. You’ll also find that your mindfulness practices get easier and easier. Pretty soon, mindfulness will naturally be a part of your life.
On the flip side, as is the case when you’re learning any new skill or building any new habit, you might find your motivation slipping after the novelty wears off. The key is to be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack! If you fall off the mindfulness wagon, simply get back on. Change your routine. Focus on mindfulness itself for a couple of days. Try a mindfulness app. Recruit a mindfulness accountability partner. Try a new anchor to associate with mindfulness. If you can begin to feel like you’re making progress, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.Mindfulness integrates beautifully with other wellness practices.Click To Tweet
Some people make entire careers around the concept and practice of mindfulness, so it’s a topic you can certainly explore in-depth if you choose. But if a deep dive into the subject isn’t for you, and you’re simply looking for a way to improve your health, it’s important to know that mindfulness is meant to be accessible to all. Mindfulness can be an easy-access wellness enhancer if you allow yourself to let go, take action, and give it a chance to work.
Of course, this brief Q&A is just the tip of the mindfulness iceberg. If you have questions about mindfulness that weren’t addressed here, please leave your comments below, or contact me here. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Meanwhile, here’s to your successful, enjoyable, health-sustaining mindfulness practice…