Welcome to Tuesdays with Chel.
“Mindfulness calls it like it is, without embellishing our experience—not making it more dramatic or intense, nor pretending it’s easier than it is. If we’re sad, we’re sad. If we’re peaceful, we’re peaceful. When we are clear about our actual experience, we can be completely authentic. This authenticity is a basic component of a joyful life.”
I spent the last 18 months doing a LOT of research and practice with the whole concept of “presence”.
There’s a concept in well-being called “mindfulness”. I first came across “mindfulness” while taking a class- it was said to be THE building block for well-being. The whole idea of honoring presence, or being mindful, didn’t sit with me at first. There are truly times when I just don’t *want* to be present, when I *want* to be lost in my thoughts, like when I’m doing laundry (a several-times-a-day task I don’t enjoy) or in pain or something like that. Getting lost in my thoughts is a way to escape the unpleasantness or boredom of certain situations. And as someone who had some serious health stuff go on, the ability to lose myself in my thoughts became a skill that I cherished.
So, no, “tuning in” didn’t seem like a building block for bliss.
But the more I researched and read about mindfulness, the more I realized that it’s not about “sitting with your thoughts” or forcing yourself to feel every pinch of a needle or thoughtfully ponder every sock in the never-ending pile of laundry.
Instead, mindfulness is just about being totally honest about what’s going on RIGHT NOW. Not making up stories or attaching emotions (negative OR positive) to what’s going on, just observing the moment like a detached scientist. Taking stock. Observing.
For instance, right now I’m a little anxious- it’s late morning and I haven’t gone swimming yet. I’m writing this, so I’m thinking a bit about the class I took. I’m still in my pajamas, comfy but I’m itching to get into my bathing suit and go tend the garden and then swim. I’m a little irritated that I had so much to do this morning before I sat down to write this, but grateful I finished it all. I’m also feeling a tiny bit of good stuff related to the idea that I might get to sit down later and do some art journaling, which I know makes me happy. <— See? That’s it. That’s mindfulness.
For a long time I thought that mindfulness meant EMBRACING every single moment, appreciating it. That sounded not only exhausting, but incredibly superficial. My default (as you may have noticed) is not exactly set to “cheerful”. So greeting each moment with open arms and joy seemed incredibly fake to me. But mindfulness is not about that. It’s just about being an honest observer, taking it in, examining it, taking measure of the facts, good and bad. It’s not “this is a BEAUTIFUL amazing moment and I am so happy to be here for this beautiful moment of folding the sixth load of laundry today!” It is “I am bored with this task and so I’m choosing to think about ideas for a new art project instead.”
Anyway, after discovering the absolute truth of the moment, mindfulness becomes about being able to respond to it. If it’s a good moment or has some good stuff in it, I acknowledge that and let myself enjoy it. If not, I notice whatever comes up and let myself feel that. Even if it’s anger or sadness or frustration. So right now, with the itching to get outside, as soon as I am done writing this, I’m going to go and do just that. Instead of sitting here and letting the anxiety ramp up, by taking a second to be a little mindful I managed to figure out what was going on and decide on a solution. Pretty cool, when you think about it.
Mindfulness, being present, is about responding to the actual moment and all the things in it instead of *reacting* to my emotionally filtered version of that moment. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
After that, it’s about just letting go of the moment- good or bad- and knowing I was there fully for it. Because i took stock of the moment when I was folding laundry, I have a memory of it, and I know I was there for it.
Awareness *is* a process at first. It’s a challenge- trust me, I know this. After spending your life seeing everything through an emotional filter, which is what we do as humans (that’s how we evolved) it’s incredibly difficult to stop doing that. Some people just can (that strange group known as “easy going”) but most of us find it a whole new way of doing things and it’s like any other thing in life, we have to learn it.
“Besides enhancing your positive states of mind, when you pause to notice what you usually overlook, a new world opens to you. Whatever your experience is, you can hold it as a sacred moment of life worthy of your attention.”
- James Baraz
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.