“Be mindful you don’t track in mud” was my grandmother’s way of saying “take your muddy shoes off, dear.” Grandma was not a Zen practitioner.
She would have hooted at the idea of working to place her entire attention upon washing dishes one breath at a time. But her kindly phrase, “be mindful you don’t….dear” can help you stay honest and gentle with yourself as you take up the practice of being here now.
Let’s back up, though, to what mindfulness is and isn’t. Simply put, mindfulness is being aware of what’s going on right now – not out there (let Twitter and Reddit attend to that for you).
Mindfulness is about easing into what exactly you are experiencing, whatever that may be.
Are you breathing? Hopefully. You can intentionally place awareness in the movement of breathing– any part of it you like. Maybe it’s the feel of your belly expanding and making your pants feel too tight. Or maybe it’s easiest to put your mind right there at your nostrils, feeling the movement of air passing.
Are you drinking coffee? Then it’s the feel of the cup in your hand, the aroma, that exponentially reassuring taste. Mindful driving means I’m only driving, no distractions, no music, just the feel of my car rolling on the road or my hands on the steering wheel.
100% is a breeze, and 99% is a bear. It’s actually more taxing to do mindfulness half-way and call it a day.
Enter Grandma’s kindly nudge, “Be mindful you’re not doing….dear” Be mindful you’re not secretly or busily in the background of your mind auto-zoning out or commenting on the process.
100% takes up all the air and space in your mind. You don’t have room for background thoughts. Your entire awareness is only landing on what you are experiencing now and again now and again. Or at least, theoretically, that is the practice.
What really happens, especially at first, is an encounter with how impossibly wayward your thoughts are. They are all over the place. It’s rather discouraging, even frustrating.
Remember Grandma’s gentle advice, especially the word dear. We need to be exceedingly kind and patient. We’re not built to pay attention. It takes practice but most of all wanting something more.