SoulCare® Practices

On the Way to Mindfulness

​​My earliest introductions to the concept of mindfulness were unsettling at best. I now know those uneasy feelings were rooted in fear of the unknown, misunderstanding, and misinformation.


When a friend first mentioned the concept of mindfulness to me, I heard “yoga” and I started sweating. I tried yoga once. I specifically tried what is called Hot Yoga. For those of you who are not familiar with Hot Yoga, as I wasn’t at the time, it is exactly what it sounds like–yoga in a very hot and humid room. I should have known better. The title combined two things I have absolutely no interest in. My friend insisted it was what I needed in my life. He was a liar.


Years later, at a conference I attended, we were asked to practice mindfulness as a group. For an hour, I sat with strangers in a large room, in an inward-facing circle, and practiced breathing exercises. “Be mindful as you listen to your breathing,” they said. It was 11:30am. I sat listening to my stomach growl—-mindful of the restaurant across the parking lot that was beckoning me.

In every experience, I was told that mindfulness was supposed to help reduce stress and anxiety. However, the activities just gave me discomfort, and instead, the feeling I mostly associate with those early experiences is guilt. I thought I wasn't doing mindfulness right.

Many years later, I now realize my negative reactions were the result of environments and activities that weren’t optimal for me. They eclipsed my ability to explore what mindfulness might offer me.

I learned some important lessons about the concept of mindfulness through those experiences–mindfulness is not a one-size-fits-all ritual, it is not a contrived exercise at the wrong time of day, and it is not a mental health quick-fix that happens in one session.


In my childhood, I had a handful of authority figures who influenced me by labeling mindfulness activities as suspect—-demonizing things like meditation. Others berated me anytime I talked about feelings and mocked me if I cried.


I have since learned to do my own examination of any ideas or practices that may be helpful in my mental health quest and to ignore the cynics who haven’t done the investigative work themselves. I am also aware of how damaging it is to think that our innate emotions should be stifled because of cultural pressure, stereotypes, and archaic ideas about what a “real man” or “strong woman” should behave like.


Very simply, Mindfulness begins with being aware. The concept of mindfulness begins with getting in touch with what I am feeling, sensing, and experiencing. What is happening around me? What stories am I telling myself? What is going on inside my body? What am I excited about? What am I grieving? What is my environment presenting me? What is occupying my headspace? Where does my body feel tension? Mindfulness does not judge these thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness acknowledges and accepts they are there without criticizing or demeaning oneself.


Mindfulness is a practice, but it isn’t necessarily an event. There are rituals that many practice on their mindfulness trek that may help them to become aware, but these experiences are not prescriptive.  They don’t necessarily work for everyone (e.g. yoga, running, meditation, prayer, exercise). There is no foolproof, direct connection to mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of being that often comes through helpful rituals–it is not the ritual itself.


You may find you can best practice mindfulness by a campfire. Sitting by a stream. Conversing with your lover. The scheduled time, the place, the rituals–they have to be a fit for you. I’m willing to bet that the more you practice mindfulness in environments that are free of distractions, the more you will be able to practice mindfulness in the middle of the noise.


Mindfulness also acknowledges and pays attention to the fact that we are magical, fascinating, and complex systems. We have lungs that take in and exhale air. We have a beating heart that delivers oxygen to every tiny cell. Most of us have feet that are in constant contact with the earth. I am here. I am present. I am alive.


The time we spend worrying, beating ourselves up, labeling and judging ourselves, dwelling on where we think we should be, wallowing in where we’ve come from, and constantly drinking the poison of past experiences can be exhausting and may position us for depression and anxiety. Living in a constant state of what should and shouldn’t be can be demobilizing. But, you are not those things that happened to you. You are not made up of the things you aren’t. You aren’t the things you’ve yet to do.


You are a poem. A beautiful poem that deserves to be cherished in the here and now.


Imagine taking notice of beauty, noticing how the wind feels as it blows past your face, enjoying every bite of a meal, interpreting the lyrics the birds are singing, and treating yourself as special as you would a beloved friend. Picture living at a pace where listening to a friend's story, laughing, and long hugs with a loved one are commonplace. Envision a world where, even in the middle of the suck, you know that you not only exist, but you live.


And honestly, breathe (but, maybe eat first).


Your fellow journeyman in health,




P.S. Here are some articles you might find helpful: