Sometimes the present moment is uncomfortable, or unpleasant, or uninteresting. And I just need to get through it, without focusing all of my attention on it.
Before “mindfulness” became a popular catch phrase, I understood the act of being mindful as paying attention, showing consideration toward others, and demonstrating thoughtfulness. With my definition as a guide, being mindful isn’t about one particular moment, it’s more about self-awareness, acknowledging my personality, my strengths, and my weaknesses. Doing what I need to do to maintain a level of calm and patience regardless of the situation.
That was certainly the case recently. Because my husband said I’m probably the only person who would pull out a book and read in Foot Locker while Kanye West blared from the speakers.
But that’s who I am. A woman who is never without reading material. And, a woman who, admittedly, isn’t always successful at demonstrating the current, more popular definition of “mindfulness.” Today, most people consider mindfulness as being aware of the present moment, completely in the here and now. Not multi-tasking. Not thinking about the next thing, but instead, the condition of being fully present in the moment, in a non-judgmental manner.
If you Google “mindfulness,” you’ll come across countless articles citing the direct correlation between increased levels of mindfulness and the benefits one will see in physical and mental health.
But, the teacher in me keeps going back to the word “mindful.” The suffix “-ful” means “full of.” One that is “beautiful” is “full of beauty,” and one that is “hopeful” is “full of hope.” So what does it mean to be “mindful?” “Full of mind?”
My mind is already full. It’s full of worries and fears. Of plans and decisions. Of appointments and schedules. Of passwords and numbers. It didn’t need to be full of athletic shoes too.
I hadn’t immediately taken out my book. Initially, I was an agreeable collaborator. I was engaged and participating in my husband’s shoe selection process. I offered my opinion on colors and commented on unique designs (both good and bad). I asked questions about the different styles.
But, this wasn’t a typical Foot Locker. We were in the Beverly Center’s Foot Locker in Los Angeles, the one that is known as the “House of Hoops,” the one that carries hundreds of pairs of shoes. So while my husband paced back and forth in style after style, I sought escape through my book.
Sometimes, I don’t think the present moment needs, or warrants, any extra attention. Sometimes the present moment is uncomfortable, or unpleasant, or uninteresting. And I just need to get through it, without focusing all of my attention on it.
Because, if I had continued to sit there, completely focused and mindful of the experience of watching my husband try on skateboarding shoes, running shoes, and basketball shoes, (none of which he does on a regular basis), I would have grown irritated and impatient.
And that doesn’t make for a pleasant time out with my husband.
By reading my book, I found refuge in a world that someone else had created. In that moment I was doing something I wanted to do, even if I wasn’t somewhere I wanted to be.
And when the need arose, I put the book aside to check in with my husband and find out which shoes were feeling the most comfortable. I closed the book as we discussed the prices of different styles. And I packed my book away back into my purse as we left the House of Hoops (without a new pair of shoes) and headed off to lunch.
The experience taught me that my definition of “mindfulness” suits me and my life. When it comes down to daily activities, I simply have to do what works for me, even if what works for me isn’t the more popular way to do things.
And I’m self-aware enough to know that most people aren’t going to read in Foot Locker. But I’m also self-aware enough to know that it’s OK if I do.
Wendy Kennar is a former elementary school teacher and a freelance writer who finds inspiration in her 8-year old son. Her writing has appeared in several publications and anthologies, both in print and online. You can read more from Wendy at wendykennar.com.