#37 Mindful Human Series: Part 1 - What Mindfulness Is and What It Isn't

Feb 29, 2020


Imagine moving through your day free from worry, being nonjudgmental, and with a kindness in your heart for yourself and others.  People that pay attention and are aware of the world around them and the space they occupy is what our world needs now more than ever.  This is the practice of Mindfulness.  

The Sensory Experience

The practice of mindfulness is about the sensory experience.  It’s an awareness of what is. It is about being present and being self-aware.   Mindfulness creates a space after a stimulus to allow for a response rather than a reaction.  Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a world filled with people who are Mindful? People who pause and respond rather than react? People who are looking up with a kind smile for you? People who seek first to understand rather than make assumptions and judge? Think about it! What a wonderful world it would be! 

The question is, is it possible?  How realistic is it really? I’ll let you be the judge of that.  After this 4 Part series of “Mindful Human”, you can decide whether to choose to be a mindful contributor and provide our society with one more person closer to a transformational behavioral shift in our world. 

The idea for this 4 part series came as a result of the initial podcast being way too long.  The one thing I hear over and over again from listeners is that they appreciated the “less than one-hour” length of the podcasts I produce because they can be listened to in one shot.  They can be listened to while exercising, while on a run, or getting ready for work without having to listen in spurts. They appreciate avoiding having to stop in the middle of listening and having to start again when they have their next free moment. 

The Shift for Wellness podcasts haven’t been designed intentionally that way, that’s just the way they tend to unfold, and what I’m finding is that they’re authentically becoming longer, so my response to that is to break them up when that happens and to create a series instead.  It benefits me as well because I get to spend less time in the studio and more time seeing the light of day. So it’s a win-win for both of us!

Mindfulness is the hot new buzzword that’s made its way into the mainstream over the last decade, despite the fact that it is thousands of years old. It’s a very simple practice and there is a lot to say about it, so I’ve chosen to chunk the information purposefully to give you the chance to play around with each piece, become familiar with it, build it into your daily routine, and stack it with another healthy habit throughout your day.

It's For Everyone

I’m kicking us off today by saying the information on this podcast is for everyone.  If you are alive and participating in this big beautiful world, and contributing to our society in any way, the information I share with you here is all about shifting yourself to a place that has more balance, is a little more harmonious, and aligns you with what is here and now.  

Whether you are a parent, who wants to share this practice with your family, an employer who wants to learn more and share it with your company, or whether you're a teacher who wants to share it with your students, whatever it is you do, however you spend your day no one is left out here. Everyone is able to participate in this practice and I want you to be able to walk away from listening to this with the ability to put these steps into place so that you can begin to create your own mindfulness practice and also share it with those you spend your day with because your practice will create a rippling effect and the results you experience will begin to spread out and around to all those who share your space. 

Are You A Multi-Tasker?

If you’re getting through each day or through each moment of your day doing and thinking of a million things at once if multitasking is how you successfully make it through your week in order to get all the boxes of things to do checked off if you’ve ever wondered after parking your car how you arrived in the parking spot that you’ve just pulled into because you don’t even remember the drive there if you’re edgy and find yourself losing patience and are lacking tolerance for minor instances, you need to make the practice of mindfulness a part of your lifestyle.  At the very least, consider it.

Read on to learn how you can make this practice of paying attention, having compassion, tuning into yourself by becoming aware of your senses, and being without judgment, an easy, simple little slice of your life. 

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has kicked off for me as being quite an intense ride.  There’s a lot going on and it’s going on fast. Things are happening all at once and I’m putting to use every skill and strategy I know of to keep me balanced, sane, and easy to be around.

A Life With Ease

Certainly, I get tired and feel beat up at times with the “less than desirable stuff” life throws my way. My mission for the Shift for Wellness podcast is to promote a life with ease while helping you face challenges and tragedies with courage and resilience, and while I too get tired and frustrated and aggravated and go through bouts of having very little tolerance for things that I feel should be running much smoother, and much easier, and much simpler I am also honoring the human experience I am having. I’m able to share with you and teach you the techniques I have in place because of the results the practice has created in my own life and the lives of those I teach.

Look Within

What I’m not here to do is bypass or dismiss any negativity that many of us are experiencing.  Doing so would only help to deepen the trauma that’s already stored in our bodies. Calling things what they are, naming them, bringing awareness to them, and taking judgment out of the equation is how the process of healing begins. Many of us have been suffering long enough and it’s time to give rise to what’s been causing that suffering to occur. It’s time to name names, to put a face to those limiting beliefs that are holding us down and keeping us hostage.  

Mindfulness is one place that can help you begin to look within.  

The 4-Part Series

In this 4 part four series on being a Mindful Human, I’ll be sharing with you: What Mindfulness Is and what it isn’t and why It’s Necessary. I’ll talk about neurobiology and the part the brain plays in mindfulness, and finally, we’ll establish The Role of the Mindful Human. Embedded in each part, you will learn the basics for each topic, you’ll begin to establish your own personal practice as you play with exercises that I’ve woven throughout each podcast, and I’m confident that you’ll feel confident enough to share what you’ve learned in each part so you can spread the wellness wealth and help me to fill our world up with more mindful humans.

My message here is for everyone regardless of who you are and what you do for a living.  We’re all in this world together, sharing the same space as we try to make each day the best we possibly can with all that we’ve been given to manage. So let’s get started!

What is Mindfulness?

So let’s get to it and talk about what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is paying attention and being aware of the world around you.

It’s intentional. It’s about the present moment.  It’s about being nonjudgmental, curious, and kind - and it’s important to note that being kind means being kind to yourself as well as being kind to others. It’s easy to be kind to others, it’s showing ourselves kindness that many of us need some practice with, right?

Although the cultivation of attention and awareness is called Mindfulness, it is important to also note that it could equally be called heartfulness because it is not merely about the head and cognition, but about our entire being and our multiple intelligences, our ways of knowing and being, which includes the cultivation of kindness and compassion.

The benefits of this practice are too great a risk to miss out on. This is not a practice that can afford to be dismissed, especially in the educational world where I and many other teachers are experiencing the levels of stress and anxiety increasing in kids year after year. Not to mention what we’re seeing stress and anxiety do to the adults in our society at large.

It's so unfortunate, but I’m sure you’re also witnessing many kids today lack coping skills and they crumble when they meet a minor hiccup in the road. They are constantly living in the fight, flight, or freeze mode.  Their sympathetic nervous system is ALWAYS ON resulting in the inability to pause and notice and self-regulate.  

These behaviors in kids are the very reason I found mindfulness. These kiddos are going to grow up, or have already grown up, and they’re going to come and work for you or maybe even be your boss. So whether you work with kids or adults, the information shared here will help you to help yourself, to create your own practice so you have a place from where to begin, and then you can work to help guide others to find and create peace within themselves. That peace within themselves will cause them to pause and to self-regulate.

Our world today is in such a state of uncertainty and unrest. In Thomas Kersting's book Disconnected: Reconnecting Our Digitally Distracted Kids, he writes about our culture today as being violent, referring to post-9/11, mass shootings, video games, and the access kids have in general to view whatever it is they want to view on the internet because most of them have cellphones and they have clear access what they want when they want especially if Mom and Dad don’t have the appropriate parental controls in place.  And often, they are not. I was most excited to see that Kersting dedicated the last chapter of his book to the practice of mindfulness to help combat the effects the violence in today’s society is having on children and he shares mindfulness practices with his readers there.  

As the latest buzzword, it’s popping up all around us.  It’s become an integral part of the medical field, which is great news, reminding doctors and nurses to breathe mindfully while in the operating room. Janice Marturano, a senior executive with decades of experience in Fortune 200 corporations, encourages mindful leadership in corporate America and you can read more about that in her book Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership.

Among other great tips and strategies, Marturano introduces the Purposeful Pause to her readers. She suggests scheduling three specific times in your day to stop what you’re doing and to practice being mindful.  She recommends setting an alarm, writing post-it notes, whatever works for you, and then seeing it through. It could be as simple as mindfully walking to your car in the morning and noticing each foot in front of the other and the temperature of the cool air on your skin, how you are feeling as you approach your car to get to your destination.  Paying attention to these feelings can tell you a lot about how your mind and body are responding to the places you go and the people you’re around. Start paying attention to those feelings and when you notice they don’t feel so great, change the places you go to, and the people you spend your time with and see how your world begins to shift as you bring yourself into alignment with what resonates with you on a more authentic level.  Professional athletes are even known to spend thousands of dollars on personal mindfulness coaches to help them improve their game. This is not a new practice, just one that has finally made its way into the mainstream. 

Some of the great names in mindfulness are Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zin, Janice Marturano, Dr. Ronald D. Seigel, Ellen J. Langer, and the Ramapo College of New Jersey Krame Center

I am really excited to share with you that I’ve been asked to design a graduate course on mindfulness for TCNJ and LaSalle University through the Regional Training Center in New Jersey! I’ll be sure to keep you updated on its completion. Feel free to send me an email if you’d like to know more about that.

It’s my hope that after listening to this series, you’ll continue to educate yourself further to deepen your practice and continue to enrich the lives of those around you. 

Before we move into what mindfulness isn’t, I’d like for you to experience a mindfulness exercise called mindful breathing, the very essence and foundation for all mindfulness practices.  So if you’re driving, running, riding a bike, or doing something where you are not able to sit still and bring all of your attention inward, then this is a good place to pause the podcast and return when you are able to be still and get yourself comfortable.  Otherwise, take a moment to get yourself comfortable, move and shift in whatever feels good for you to be still for a moment or two.

I’m going to invite you to:

  • Gently close your eyes or gaze down at the floor if closing them is uncomfortable
  • Pay attention to your breath. With your mouth closed, inhale and exhale through your nose if that’s available to you.  If you have a cold, gently part your lips. And breathe at your normal rate. There is no effort here other than to simply breathe.
  • Notice how your body expands on the inhales and contracts on the exhales.  If thoughts come into your mind, it’s ok. They will.  
  • Don’t judge what’s happening now, just pay attention to your breath.  Notice what you notice. What is it that you notice? When you feel something or think about something - name it. Like: My breathing is shallow.  I’m noticing I’m making a list of what I need to do after listening to the podcast. Don’t judge. Just name it and return to your breath.

Gently open your eyes: That was one minute.  

How did that feel?  How are you feeling now compared to how you were feeling before the practice?  

Now let’s talk about what mindfulness isn’t.

What Mindfulness Isn't

Mindfulness is not:

  • Mindfulness is not a religion.  It is not about being calm or absence of thought.   Becoming calm is a result of being mindful, but mindfulness is not meant to be practiced to create calmness. It's meant to be practiced to create awareness.
  • Mindfulness is not about using mantras or visualization. It's about being with what is happening at the moment.  It’s about naming the experience you are having. It’s about pausing to notice what you are noticing. So this makes it the very opposite of being absent of thought. Being absent from thought is a meditation practice and the two are not the same.  Being mindful does not mean meditation. Mindfulness is necessary in order to meditate successfully, but we're not talking about meditation today, so let's just put the topic of meditation aside for another podcast.
  • The practice of mindfulness is not intended to be used as a discipline or a cure-all for kids.  We don’t want to hear teachers saying, “Suzie, that’s enough! You need to be more mindful! Go take a time out and practice being mindful!” 
  • Instead, we can ask questions of students who are in need of discipline like, What triggered your behavior? Did you notice any feelings coming on or getting stronger before you lashed out like that? And then use that time to show them alternatives to sitting in class as emotions are building up like being able to step away and get quiet, go for a walk, or sit with a thinking jar. These are good ideas of things kids can use to self-regulate as they start to notice they are getting ready to go over the edge.
    I’m curious to see if you’re surprised by any of the descriptors here for what I’m telling you mindfulness is NOT.  Feel free to post your thoughts on the Shift for Wellness Facebook group page and I’ll be happy to respond to you there. I’d like to end our time together today by making no claims to being an expert on mindfulness. I came to the practice because I saw a need for it in my classroom. I educated myself on it and continue to do so by taking courses, I read about it extensively, I continue to work to develop my own practice, and I teach the practice to my students and encourage them daily to develop their own. The shift work I have for you this week is to tell someone about mindfulness.  I want you to be able to tell someone else what it is, what it isn’t, and maybe even invite someone to pause and practice with you.  I’d love to hear about your experiences with the practice of mindfulness so if anything resonated with you here in Part 1 or if you have any questions, feel free to post them on the Shift for Wellness Facebook group page.  As we begin to build a community where you will be able to connect with and learn from other like-minded individuals who are purposefully practicing with the intention of bringing more ease into their lives.  See you in Part II of the Mindful Human: "Why Mindfulness is Necessary”.

**SHIFT Work:

The SHIFT work I have for you this week has two parts.  Part one is to share the practice of mindfulness with someone.  Tell them what it is and what it isn't.  Part two is to start making purposeful pauses a part of your day.  Make it fun seeing where you can squeeze in 30 seconds here and one minute there!!

You can also sign up to receive the FREE Wellness Workbook and have fun playing around with creating 5 quick steps to wellness! Just sign up at the bottom of the Home page of this website.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with the practice so if anything resonated with you here in Part I or if you have any questions, feel free to post them on the Shift for Wellness Facebook group page.  

Let's Build Community

As we build community there, you will be able to connect with and learn from other like-minded individuals who are purposefully practicing with the intention of bringing more ease into their lives.  

Remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about being easy with the practice. xo