Outline of sitting person with words around meditation.
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Image by John Hain

The Art of Being

Body

When I hear mindfulness I think “the art of being.” I am not sure why or where I got the phrase from, but I find it apt. To me, mindfulness is about being. Being in the moment. Being in the presence of yourself. Being in yourself. Being.

And being is an art. It does not come naturally nor easily. It takes practice and sometimes just letting go.

This year I have been learning about mindfulness and trying to practice every day. I previously thought of mindfulness as meditation, but it is so much more. The image above shows the evolution of my thinking around mindfulness.

In the past I thought of mindfulness as the largest, black words in the image, which are closest to the sitting person.

Here. Now. Body. Breath. Being. This.

Mindfulness was about being in the here and now, paying attention to your body, sitting still, focusing on your breathing, and being in this moment. In other words, meditation.

While that can be mindfulness, I have learned many more mindfulness practices, which have expanded my thinking into the smaller, colorful words that are farther out from the person sitting in the image.

The first and core module of dialectical behavior therapy (an evidence based psychotherapy that provides skills to live a better life) is mindfulness, which consists of what skills, how skills, and wise mind. In the course of learning these skills, several played a key role in expanding my notion of mindfulness.

  • Mindful walking is such a simple concept, yet I had never thought about walking mindfully. I usually find comfort in focusing on each step, the feeling of my shoes hitting the pavement, noticing the nature of my stride, and paying attention to how my body moves through the space around me.
  • Listening mindfully to others (such as in a meeting at work or conversation with a friend) is also simple but important to being an effective person and building meaningful relationships.
  • Participating in a game (such as taboo or pictionary) can be mindfulness. Sometimes, I have fun while doing so, and other times I am painfully aware of how self-judgment, self-criticism, and anxiety get in the way of being in the moment and just enjoying myself.
  • Describing one thing I see (such as a chair) in great detail and without judgement can be done anywhere and no one knows. For me, this is more effective if I describe the object curiously, as if it is the first time I have ever seen something of the sort.
  • Cleaning mindfully can be productive and much more effective. I move behind judgements. I focus on cleaning one thing and then another and then another, and before I know it a whole room is cleaned.

These are just a few examples. I try to practice mindfulness at least once every day and continue learning new techniques. Some days are more successful than others. Some days practicing mindfulness is hard. Some days practicing mindfulness seems not to work. However, I keep at it. I keep practicing mindfulness regularly and intentionally. I keep practicing new techniques. I keep practicing the art of being.

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