What is Mindfulness?

My friend reminded me of a quote the other day from my favourite book by Alice Walker and my favourite movie of all time, The Color Purple: “ I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But, any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”

Now, I’m not about to get all religious on you, it doesn’t matter to me what you believe in, whether there is a god or not, but, don’t you think its a crying shame that you might witness something around you so exquisitely beautiful and you don’t notice it? We’ve all only got one life, every moment counts!

I’m not a doctor, I’m not a psychiatrist and I have no credentials for talking with any authority on this subject, other than Ive tried it and it works for me.

One of the benefits of being active on Instagram is that it makes you more aware of your surroundings. You’re constantly looking for photo opportunities and so, tend to be much more observant than you used to be. You notice the beauty of the frost on the window pane, the russet tones of a crumpled autumn leaf, the reflection of a cloudless sky in your chrome garden lantern. Without realising it, you’ve already started practicing mindfulness.

It’s so easy to stroll through life not really noticing very much. Our lives are so busy nowadays, there doesn’t ever seem to be time to stop and just be. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own thoughts. Our minds can become so full of negativity and anxiety, worrying about what might happen in the future. What if I don’t meet that deadline, what if we cant pay that bill, what if my child doesn’t pass that exam? We’re all so busy worrying about the future we’ve completely forgotten about the moment we are actually in.

Being in the moment, paying more attention to the now, to the world around us and to our own thoughts and feelings can help with our mental wellbeing.

Whenever I used to hear the word “mindfulness” I would roll my eyes, placing it very firmly in the same pigeon hole as veganism and Scientology. Then, something happened to me that changed my life and I naturally just started noticing the world around me. The deep cerise of the Monarda flower in the photograph above, for example, it’s pointy petals and the intoxicating fragrance of Bergamot. 

For the first time in years, I was awake and present. I’d been coasting for so long, going through the motions. I was caught up in my thoughts, living in my head and allowing my thoughts to control my life.  I looked into mindfulness, realising that I had already started practicing it and that it wasn’t mumbo jumbo after all.

By being in the moment and listening to the world, my body and my mind, I was able to recognise my thoughts and when I was allowing them to take over. This helped me to stop habits that I had gotten into like sulking after an argument or feeling not worthy. 

“Knowing directly what is going on inside and outside of ourselves, moment by moment.” – Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre. This quote really sums up what mindfulness is to me.

Now it’s time to start noticing yourself. Why am I thinking what I’m thinking, why am I being moody, why does my knee hurt again? We repeat thought patterns over an over. Why do we keep having the same argument with our partner? Is it their behaviour, or is it our reaction to that behaviour and the way our minds think about it afterwards? I’m so guilty of this. My hubby, Mr C will say something that I think is unkind, so me being me, I will say something straight away, often not thinking about the words I’m using. Afterwards, he thinks that discussion is over and all was resolved. I, however, am still angry and hurt, so I ponder and I ponder, sometimes for hours as I go about my day. Why did he say that? What did he mean? I cant believe he doesn’t know me after all these years! If he knew me, he would know that what he said hurts me. Perhaps, he doesn’t love me? Now, I’m more mad and upset than I was before! It goes on and on!

Who’s upset though? Mr C has moved on and is going about his daily chores. Me? Well, I’m in despair! I’m going about my daily chores overthinking everything, creating an epic drama in my brain where I’m divorced and living a life of squalor in some bedsit. Who’s the fool?

So often, I will try and come back to the conversation later with Mr C and he’s perplexed. “What are you talking about? Oh my god, your not still on about that? We sorted that this morning!”

So he’s had a lovely day and I’ve made sure that my day was hideous by repeating my thought patterns over and over. Of course he loves me, he just said the wrong thing. He didn’t mean anything by it, but I decided to make it a great big thing and wallow and brood.

Practicing mindfulness makes you recognise these traits, these repetitive actions. It makes you question yourself and your thoughts. Are my thought patterns healthy? Do my thoughts help me? If the answer is no, then why the hell do we keep repeating them? The only person upset is you!

Mindfulness isn’t the answer to the worlds problems, but it would go some way to making us a better, kinder, happier world. If each and everyone of us became that little bit happier each day, imagine what we could all do in a year! We are all human beings, its just that somewhere along the way we all forgot the art BEING.

USEFUL BOOKS (Mostly available on Amazon)

The things you can see only when you slow down – Haemin Sunim.

10% Happier – Dan Harris.

Waking up – Sam Harris.

Mindfulness: A practical Guide – Mark Williams and Danny Penman.

The little Book of Mindfulness – Dr Patricia Collard.

The Mindfulness Journal – S.J Scott and Barrie Davenport.

Online help: www.nhs.uk

Frost on a window pane.

28 Comments

  1. September 12, 2019 / 7:26 am

    Lovely easy to read article Jon. Although I’ve done a lot of work in the minfulness area I drift away from it and need reminders. The word has become a bit overused; I wonder if awareness could substitute. No matter what it’s called anything that brings us fully into this moment is a good thing.

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:31 pm

      Yes, I think awareness is probably a better word now and doesn’t come with so many pre-conceived notions. Xxx

  2. Natalie
    September 12, 2019 / 7:53 am

    I agree with all of these things. My partner had a cancer diagnosis two years ago which turned out world upside down. After amazing treatment at the Marsden he has been clear for approaching a year. Every day I count my blessings and appreciate the small stuff – I have always loved a sunset but now I love them even more. Nature is true therapy and we all need to stop and just stare from time to time. I agree with you about taking photos – it can become an obsession to seek out the detail no one else sees – I can be slightly obsessive about it sometimes 😍

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:29 pm

      My realisation was after cancer diagnosis too, so I totally get you. Glad you have been clear for nearly a year now!

  3. Jude
    September 12, 2019 / 8:04 am

    At the school I worked at several years ago, we did a Mindfulness course based on the Mark Williamson book before introducing a specially tailored programme to the children, and I still enjoy the breathing practices and the body scans.

    And I was imoressed that clinical research has shown the practice to work in people with depression.

    And in terms of the way you think, I try to remind myself, though you may not be able to change the things around you: people /situations, you can change the way you think about them/react/ respond to them.

    We had young (relative to me that is) builder who woriked for us, and he was completely sold on the Mark Williamson approach and highly recommended the book to his peers because he says, the midlife crisis now comes early, in your late twenties/early thirties!

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:28 pm

      Wow, it’s a sign of the times when your mid-life crisis is in your late twenties! Even more need to mindfulness. Thank you for reading it. Xx

  4. Joanna
    September 12, 2019 / 10:43 am

    Love this! Such a great read and so very true! I’m a dreadful over-thinker & I think I’ve been practicing mindfulness lately, without even really realising! It really helps 🙌 x

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:27 pm

      Thanks so much Joanna! Many of us are practicing it without even realising it. Once you realise what you are doing thats when the magic starts!xxx

  5. Mary Katherine
    September 12, 2019 / 10:59 am

    How lovely, JP! So true and well-said. I’ll carry these thoughts with me today to ponder. Hoping you’re fit and well again.
    Cheers,

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:25 pm

      Thank you so much Mary, so kind of you to read. Xxx

  6. Sarah
    September 12, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    Great Blog! You are so right about what you say..
    I suddenly became more aware when I was diagnosed with breasr cancer aged 33 with my youngest child only 2 years old ( I’m 51 now )Everything in my life was more colourful if that makes sense.. And once you become more mindful it stays with you – this I believe helped me and my family when my husband was then diagnosed with cancer and fortunately had a living saving transplant. We are all well now thank goodness. Sorry I’ve rambled on but what I think I’m trying to say is I had the fright of my life to find mindfulness.

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:25 pm

      I’m so glad you are all well now. I too became more aware after being diagnosed with Lymphoma, so I know exactly what you mean. Xxxx

  7. Lyndsey Wardman
    September 12, 2019 / 3:11 pm

    Loved this! I can completely and utterly identify with it too. Thankyou.

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 3:23 pm

      Thank you so much Lyndsey, so glad it resonated with you. Here’s to be being less broody and getting on with life. Xx

  8. Cori Lynch Mueffelmann
    September 12, 2019 / 5:31 pm

    Beautiful words and reminder on this grey rainy day in Minnesota! You’re touching hearts around the world – I will be looking for beauty wherever I can find it as I clean my house today! 🙂

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 12, 2019 / 5:43 pm

      Thanks so much Cori. So sorry its grey over there. Hoping for some sunshine here for a few days. There’s always something beautiful in everything, well, maybe not slugs, but almost everything!

    • Nina Pethers
      October 14, 2019 / 11:30 pm

      Just love reading this Jon… do you know you are helping so many people … I love the way you speak from your heart.!!
      I will remember this!
      Thank you
      Xxx

      • Jonpaulclark
        Author
        October 31, 2019 / 12:40 pm

        That’s so very kind of you to say. Thank you. Jp x

  9. September 12, 2019 / 8:33 pm

    Lots of food for thought! Something I always ponder: if you only knew how many Thursdays (for example) you had left in your life, wouldn’t you savor this Thursday more? Regardless of if it’s three Thursdays or a thousand, acknowledging that your number of ordinary days is finite somehow brings it into focus that you should be present in the moment YES on Monday and Thursday and Tuesday as well as the flashier days like Saturday. It’s not always easy to do, but I try!

  10. Beverley
    September 12, 2019 / 10:23 pm

    Agree with everything you say and very well put! and when you’re stuck as I was in a hideous tunnel of anxiety that you can’t release yourself from a course of CBT and a recommendation to listen to the Mark Williams Mindfulness CD helped me so much. That was eight years ago and I’m happy to say my anxiety is now under control. I still listen to that CD occasionally- the body scan has the most amazing way of making you relax. Gardening is Mindfulness I love it!! and always, like you say, make sure you just be in the moment. Look forward to reading your next blog post, JP. 🥰

  11. Kim
    September 13, 2019 / 1:55 am

    Great blog, and a wonderful reminder to see and appreciate beauty and nature in the everyday!
    You are such a lovely man (and a wonderful writer)…that comes through in your posts/stories and blog! 😊

  12. Cynthia
    September 13, 2019 / 2:30 pm

    Thank you 💙 I absolutely loved this! It’s so true, how we are all guilty of replaying those ridiculous scenarios in our head. And it simply gets us nowhere! What a waste of our time and energy! A few weeks ago , after hitting a personal rough patch, very well meaning people said to me you need to go on vacation. My answer to them was “ I just want to be, take a breath… just be in the moment “ and it’s truly working 💕 will I take a vacation? Absolutely 💕 for now I will just “ be in the moment “😘

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      September 22, 2019 / 2:03 pm

      Very often being in the moment can feel like a vacation Cynthia. Xxx

  13. Dee
    September 13, 2019 / 9:25 pm

    Love this, thank you xx

  14. September 17, 2019 / 10:52 pm

    Beautiful article. Written from the heart and from experience. A great reminder. I’m so guilty of forgetting it sometimes. My garden and jewellery making really ground me. My youngest grandchild at nearly two years old exploring the world reminds me of little things I overlook but which he looks at and experiences with wonder! More reminders please Jon! ❤️❤️❤️

  15. Jane
    September 18, 2019 / 9:37 am

    A beautifully written piece and it really hit home, I took a moment on the way to work to take a picture of a river view of York looking magical.
    Like other people including yourself a cancer diagnosis (my husband has stage 4 colon cancer) has cast a very ugly shadow on our lives, the colour purple quote hit home, so much beauty out there still.

  16. Elaine Smith
    October 15, 2019 / 11:10 am

    JP I just found this blog and you made me laugh and cry. I have been following you on Instagram for a while and I really feel your kindness. You always reply to a comment and make me feel we are friends. I think you really do connect with people. Thank you 🙏 x

    • Jonpaulclark
      Author
      October 31, 2019 / 12:41 pm

      Thank you so much darling, thats so kind of you. Thanks for taking the time to read it. Xxx

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