How to be mindful, you ask? How to be mindful every day, you also ask? We are getting into some Zen topics in this blog, starting with the definition of mindfulness. Here is what mindfulness is not:
- Clearing your mind
- Not thinking
- Being in a perpetual state of bliss
So, how to be mindful then? Here is what mindfulness IS: you know that sensation of being aware of yourself? You can say in your head, “This is me. Here I am.” You are actually aware of being you, of having thoughts, having feelings, of being you. That is mindfulness. It is simply being aware of you being you in the moment.
As you become more aware of yourself throughout the day you will be less likely to eat mindlessly, react to life mindlessly, or react at all. We are going to practice how to be mindful in this article.
HOW TO BE MINDFUL: BE AWARE OF THE MOVIE
Here are some great ways to practice mindfulness. Imagine yourself sitting in a movie theater watching a movie. There is a good chance that you get so engrossed in the movie that you completely forget your surroundings. You forget your own body, you forget your own life, you forget the person next to you, and you may even forget that you are eating a bucket of popcorn. The movie is engrossing with all of its sights and sounds that you have forgotten your actual life.
This is what life does to us everyday. This is the opposite of how to be mindful. There are not only sights and sounds, but there are feelings and smells and tastes and it can completely suck us in. There may be days (or weeks!) that go by where you are completely engrossed in the movie of your life, and don’t pause to come back to yourself. To say to yourself, “Here I am. This is me.”
HOW TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS IN EVERYDAY LIFE:
YOUR THOUGHTS ARE THE MOVIE
A result of practicing awareness of yourself (how to be mindful) is you realize your thoughts are the biggest component of the movie in your head. Not only are you sucked into the movie happening around you, the biggest movie is the drama going on in your head.
How to be mindful with your thoughts: Think of something that bothered your brain today. Maybe it is something someone said to you, a post you read on social media, or anxiety about something on your calendar today. Have that event in your mind? Let’s go through the steps of how to be mindful in the middle of emotional upset.
Now think of all the thoughts your brain had about that little piece of unpleasantness. Observe your thoughts as a third party. Did your brain defend itself? Justify itself? Cheerlead itself? Give you a pep talk? Give you a beating? You may be wondering how to be mindful when all of that chaos is happening.
No matter what your brain told you about the event, whether positive or negative, it is all part of the movie. (If you are having issues with negative thoughts about your body, this article might help.)
Your next step in mindfulness is to practice watching what your brain does today. Watch how much it talks, and how hard it works to defend and protect you.
YOUR EMOTIONS ARE ALSO THE MOVIE
How to be mindful with your emotions: If you are not your thoughts, what are you then? Are you your emotions? Is somehow controlling your emotions part of how to be mindful?
Now you will do the same thing to your emotions as you have your thoughts. You will observe them as if you are a third party bystander. Instead of buying into your emotions, believing they ARE you, try feeling and observing them as a third party bystander.
It will sound something like this. “Hmmm . . . I am feeling pretty angry right now. What he said really bothered me. This is what it feels like to feel angry. I am feeling angry in my chest, in my head, and in my throat. Yep, this is angry.” This is how to be mindful with your emotions.
What you will practice NOT doing is allowing emotions to rope in your thoughts. This is not how to be mindful. That sounds something like this. “Hmmmm. . . I am feeling pretty angry right now. What he said really bothered me. It is wrong because of xyz. He is a jerk. He always does this to me . . . “
In that scenario, our feelings have roped in our brains, and we have been completely sucked into the movie. This is not how to be mindful.
HOW TO DO MINDFUL MEDITATION: TREAT EMOTIONS LIKE THE WEATHER
For me, emotions have been harder to witness as a bystander than my thoughts are. Emotions tend to have a grip on me, and when I am out of awareness and in their grip, they can make me pretty miserable. I have practiced and continue to practice the art of how to be mindful by paying close attention to my emotions.
To loosen the grip of emotions, as a tip for how to stay in the present, it can be helpful to think of emotions like the weather. A rainstorm comes in, and pours down for as long as it will pour down, and then it subsides. A windstorm comes in, blows as hard as it wants to blow, and then it blows itself away.
Emotions are like the weather. They will happen. How to be mindful of them? The goal isn’t to be perpetually sunny and Pollyanna happy. That isn’t how we are built as humans. The goal is to let the emotions come, feel them as surely as we feel the rain or the wind, and let them go when they finish blowing. This is how to practice mindfulness throughout the day.
What we can rid ourselves of is the angst and attachment we have over having feelings. This is also how to not live in the past. What if you could be okay with being angry? What if you didn’t need to fight with sadness? What if feelings are like the weather? Your feelings are not you any more than your thoughts are you.
DAILY MINDFULNESS READINGS: ARE YOU EATING EMOTIONS?
Here is a good way to take a reading on your daily mindfulness and how to be mindful in everyday life: Pay attention to what you eat. Why are we learning about mindfulness and feeling our feelings in a program about eating? I hope the answer is obvious.
When we buy into the movie we are watching, instead of listening to the self behind the thoughts and the emotions, we tend to operate on emotional autopilot. Just as you will eat an entire bucket of popcorn while watching a movie without noticing, you will also consume a lot of food without noticing while being sucked into the movie of your life.
You can’t just practice being mindful at those moments when you want to eat your feelings. Mindfulness is a practice and a habit that is practiced in all areas of your life, every day. It is as much of a habit as exercise, or watching TV, or cooking dinner. Practice these daily mindfulness exercises and you are practicing how to practice mindfulness as a beginner.
How to be mindful? To be a mindful eater, you will also be a mindful person. Read this article to learn about the Tao, and how it can help you with mindfulness while you eat.