On Sunday evening, the phrase, “mindfulness can be a mindf*ck,” rolled off my tongue like a well-known saying that your grandmother repeatedly told you during your childhood. However, as I uttered these words, I internally conceded how off-the-cuff this remark was. With that said, it perfectly summarized the complexity of understanding the term mindfulness.
Prior to this declaration, a 10-minute conversation with my writing trio led me to this new epiphany. In addition to our weekly discussions centered our triumphs and tribulations, Kelly, Karen, and I incorporate readings of our latest writing samples into our Zooms. After all, holding each other accountable for writing is the reason we created our group in the first place.
For the sake of time last week, I summarized my latest blog regarding practicing mindfulness through meditation rather than reading it to them: (https://tracinicolesmith.com/practicing-mindfulness-through-meditation/). After I finished, a pause occurred. In a voice of confusion tempered with curiosity, Karen admitted, “Sometimes, you can feel inadequate when you try to meditate.” Immediately, Kelly agreed and chimed in with similar sentiments.
Interested in hearing more about her experiences, I encouraged her to elaborate on this courageous declaration. Thus, Karen explained that when she attempted to meditate, ideas, feelings, and emotions swirled around in her head, which wasn’t exactly relaxing her body, providing any clarity in her life, or clearing her thought-tangled mind.
“Isn’t that mindfulness?” she pondered, “I am thinking about a lot of things when I close my eyes and pay attention to everything bouncing around in my head.” Concurring with Karen, Kelly chimed in, “That is what happens for me. And, I don’t think I am doing it right. You should write about this on your blog. I love that phrase!”
Definition of the Word Mind-full-ness
Without hesitating, I acknowledged how the words “mind,” full,” and the suffix “ness” create the compound word “mindfulness” but that being mindful wasn’t the same as being mind-full. As I expanded on the art of cultivating a mindfulness practice, clarity enveloped the misconception. Equally, I realized that this misunderstanding could actually be a commonly held belief.
While thinking about how imprecisely I explained the terms “mindfulness” and “meditation” in my 500-plus word weekly entry last week, in retrospect, I see the need for elaboration. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word mind means “the organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity of an organism.” Moreover, the word full means “containing as much or as many as is possible or normal” while the suffix “ness” means “state, condition, and quality.”
Denotation of the Word Mindfulness
Therefore, combining these words together as mindfulness should roughly translate into “the state of organized conscious and unconscious adaptive mental activity containing as much or as many as is possible or normal.” But, in actuality, Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” Indeed, this is vastly different.
Furthermore, the word mental that is included in my this-should-be-the-definition meaning of the word appears counterintuitive to the state of being that you are crafting for your perfect practice. As you learn mindfulness through meditation, it is act of focusing on your breathing that creates the shift in your consciousness from busy to calm.
Rather than revisiting past events or planning future experiences while meditating, practicing mindfulness through meditation requires you to focus all of your senses on the present moment. By tracking your breath inhalations and exhalations, you are gently guided into being focused on the “now” rather than on information churning through your brain.
Developing the ability to tune into sensory perceptions of the body as an observer rather than an active problem solver of your life issues requires patience and grace in addition to routinely practice. For more information about learning how to develop a new habit: https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits