Mindfulness: It’s Not What You Think

A few months ago, I was looking for a unique way to celebrate my birthday. As I cruised around the internet, checking out different ideas, I came across a class entitled: Mindfulness: It’s Not What You Think. Hmm.

I chose the word ‘Now’ to be my guide in 2017. Instead of living in the past, or worrying about the future, I wanted to be fully aware, in each moment, right now. The class that I found on-line sounded like a perfect way to learn more about my theme. What is mindfulness, but paying attention to what’s happening right now? And I was intrigued. And what did ‘it’s not what you think’ mean?

The instructor opened the class by saying that many think of mindfulness as ‘living in the moment’, but that’s not entirely true. (So that’s where the ‘it’s not what you think’ comes in.)

Imagine you are sitting on a bench by a river lined with trees and a nature path. As you watch the river slowly flow by, you may find yourself focusing on a lone leaf as its pushed along by the current. In narrowing in on that leaf; the trees, path, birds and breeze that also lived in that ‘now moment’, were effectively blocked out and unnoticed.

Seeing and following the leaf wasn’t wrong, it just proves a point: It’s impossible to grab hold of ‘now’ because it’s too wide and too densely packed a place to completely absorb. Isn’t that interesting?

He suggested that instead of trying to constantly grab at an event, while missing everything else (think Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory), we should try to step back and observe as much of life as we can without judgement. There’s a constant flow of events that meets us in each hour, and the goal is to be truly present and aware of as much as possible.

The biggest block to being mindful is overreaction.

As soon as powerful emotions take over, we become frozen in that moment. For example, wrestling with anger over a pushy driver, I’m unable to appreciate all the other courteous drivers or the music in the car, because I’m held hostage by irritation and disappointment. Immersed in negative feelings, beautiful and intricately knit gifts of the day continue to silently glide past me unseen and unheard.

This new way of living mindfully was a revelation to me. It makes sense that it’s impossible to take in everything happening right now, just based on the volume of input. I like the idea of being open to moments instead of trying to to attach myself to them, and trying not to be carried away by emotion. That way, I can lovingly accept every circumstance and give thanks, ready to accept the next experience planned for me.

“Mindfulness” allows me to receive, while “living in the moment” demands that I reach, grab and try to possess each event. Mindfulness certainly sounds like a more peaceful way to negotiate life.


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46 thoughts on “Mindfulness: It’s Not What You Think

  1. Ceil,

    I wonder if people used to do this effortlessly. I mean, before phones, television, 24 hour news, and so many things to worry about that don’t really matter. Were my grandparents naturally in the moment or were theirs?

    • Hi Sandi! That’s a really good question. We do know so much more, especially about world events these days.

      I wonder if they were just as busy though, working so much harder than we ever had to. We have washing machines, cars, electric lawn mowers. All things they didn’t. But, who knows really. I do think some people come to this mindfulness easier than others. Some worry more than others just by their make-up. How about you? Do you struggle to be mindful?

      Have a peaceful night,

  2. Hi Ceil!
    Thanks for this description. I have heard quite an array of things about the topic and have felt uncertain about how consistent it is with my faith, etc. Your post today helps clarify what it is and what it is not.

    Hope you are having a great weekend though likely pretty chilly up your way. (It’s only about 15 here and expected to go down….not including the wind-chill.

    Grace and hugs,

    • Hi Pam! You know, at first I thought the whole thing was just semantics. That being present to a moment and mindfulness were really the same things. But as he spoke, I ‘got it’. It was an eye-opener for me that’s for sure.

      It’s pretty cold here too. We are waiting on some snow tonight, but not a lot mercifully. Have a cozy and peaceful evening!

  3. It sounds like a peaceful way to live, doesn’t it? I think, many times, I am so fixated on enjoying the “now” that it actually brings on stress. I am so afraid of missing out on the moment that I worry about it. I think I could find something to worry about in a perfect world! LOL! Thank you for this enlightening post, my friend. God bless you in this new year!

    • Honestly Cheryl, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. We can all stress about being present so much that it’s actually keeping us from the joy it’s meant to bring! It’s just impossible to take it all in anyway. Might as well try to meet the day and the things that come with it, with an attitude of hope. And not giving into negative emotions!

      I hope you have a 2018 full of clarity!

    • Hi Martha! It was an eye-opener for me too, believe it. At first, I thought that being in the moment and mindfulness were really two ways of saying the same thing. Boy, did I learn differently. It was a fun revelation though! I was so glad I attended that program.

      Have a peaceful night my friend,

  4. Have to admit this is new to me Ceil. It is going to take some thought on my part. I can see the point but I also wonder if perhaps his definition of now is a bit skewed. I look at “now” as not worrying about the future. Living my adventure NOW and not waiting for it to happen. maybe I’m just not getting it. (That is totally possible in my now thinking). 🙂

    • Hi Bill! I think we all have different ideas of what ‘now’ means, and how to be attentive to it. You see it as not worrying, and I love that. Pretty sure God loves that too, because he tells us repeatedly to do just that. No worry for his children!

      I saw it dove tail very well with my word for last year, so I understood it differently. I think as long as we’re learning to be closer to God, and closer to knowing him, it’s all good.

      God bless you and yours this coming week,

    • Hi Darlene! Thank you for reading and commenting, I love that!
      It’s so nice to know you like what you read here, and that it makes you think. I think that’s awesome too 🙂

      Have a peaceful evening!

  5. Hi Ceil,
    it was so strange to read about the ‘leaf on a stream’. Many years ago I wrote something about how I felt my life was. I wrote that I felt like a leaf on a slow moving stream, that I remain still and allow the Lord, just like the stream, to take me to where I should be going.

    • Hi Brenda! What a wonderful coincidence! I really loved that photo, because it fit in well with what I wrote, but also because it’s just the kind of thing that would catch my eye. You saw it in a totally different way…I think that’s so great!

      Have a peaceful night my friend,

  6. The thing with mindfulness and concentrating on the moment (the leaf) is that it is too tiring. It is too tiring to concentrate on one item/moment when life is busily throwing at us many things simultaneously – breaking news, texts, e-mails, phone calls on cell phones etc etc In the old times people did not have cell phones so no constant phone calls and texts needing immediate attention. No 24 hour news telling you what is going wrong all over the world and making you feel negative even though you can’t do anything about what is going wrong. Basically, the world today is full of noise blocking one’s mindfulness, one’s silence and one’s prayers

    God bless.

    • Hi Victor! You have a great point here. Just being an imperfect person is a lot to deal with when I try to be mindful, I don’t need all the distractions that come with life too. It just makes it harder, makes me worry more etc.

      So do we unplug? Or is there a way to live in this high paced world and still hang on to mindfulness?


  7. Hi Ceil, This is an interesting post. Each day, I desire to focus on that day and on the things I’m doing–not letting my mind wander to the past or into the future. For me, my desire to focus on God in the mundane tasks of daily living–practicing the presence of God each day. My thoughts are that practicing the presence of God just might keep me mindful.

    Blessings to you for the week ahead.


    • Hi Kim! I think we are much the same. I also try to think of the Lord in my daily jobs and tasks. To stay right where I am in my mind, and to appreciate what God gives me in those moments. I do think that’s the essence of mindfulness. Taking nothing for granted. Does that sound right to you?

      Have a peaceful night,

  8. Happy belated birthday, Ceil! This is an interesting concept to learn. I remember years way back going to a church that held potlucks often. I told my friend that being an introvert, I found them overwhelming. She really helped me to relax in the crowd and just enjoy the person or people at my table. When I realized I wasn’t responsible to visit with everyone and make small talk, I began to enjoy them more. I think your word “now” will enlighten us all! Happy New Year!

    • Hi Mary! I had a friend who was also overwhelmed by all the people around her. We had a little talk about just serving those she met, and that seemed to help.

      ‘Now’ was my word for 2017, and I’m currently thinking about my new word for this year. Not too sure yet!

      Happy 2018 to you and yours my friend 🙂

  9. “”Mindfulness” allows me to receive, while “living in the moment” demands that I reach, grab and try to possess each event.”

    I like this because living in the moment puts the onus on me, that somehow I am responsible for everything. I don’t need anymore pressure! Instead mindfulness allows me to receive what the Lord has for me.

    Very thought-provoking post, Ceil!

    • Hi Jerralea! I like the way you summed up the point of the post. It is exhausting to keep reaching and grabbing and hoping you have caught it all. Being open to the river of experience and sights of the day is much more peaceful and joyful experience.

      Thank you for coming on over tonight. It’s nice to see you!

  10. First, I love how you were looking for something interesting to do for your birthday and chose this course. It sounds like it was a good choice because you learned so much.

    I can see how being hyper-focused on one thing causes us to not be fully present to what else is happening along the way. I never thought of mindfulness like this but it makes sense. I wonder how much I have truly missed because I let one small thing derail me for the rest of the day?

    Do you have a new word for this year? Blessings to you as we being a new week.

    • Hi Mary! This was the first time I celebrated my birthday this way. I really like it! Maybe it will be a tradition?

      I haven’t chosen my word for the year yet. I’m thinking about it, and I’ll write about it for next week! Thanks for asking 🙂

  11. While reading I started to think about how God asks us to stay in thankfulness regardless of our anxiety. It really is about not fighting against our circumstances, and accepting them in grace to stay in that state of mindfulness. I’m not always good at this when fear and worry take over with those that I am close to–my children especially. I can look at this as a place to grow in mindfulness for sure!

    • Hi Lynn! I think the class leader’s point about not giving into negative emotions is such a good one. Anxiety is something I deal with too, and there’s not much that tops that for keeping me away from enjoying or even noticing my environment. Your point about your children, yeah, I totally get that too.

      I think I’ll be working on this for the rest of my life. But at least now I can do it without worrying so much about ‘being in the moment.’

      Have a restful night,

  12. Ah … I come from a long line of over-reactors. I’m guessing it’s been modeled for us, it’s somehow become woven into the gene pool and I’m making alot of excuses for my own sometimes unnecessary behavior.

    I guess I want to be more mindful of God’s presence, of His activity, of His invitations when all else around swirls and begs for my attention …

    Be still. That’s what I’m hearing Him whispering these days.

    Thanks for sharing what you’re learning … I always leave here challenged and encouraged, friend …

    • Hi Linda! I think it’s wonderful that you’re listening so closely to the Lord, that’s a real inspiration to me, thank you! As a counselor, I know you must have seen a lot of ‘over-reactors’ and helped them to understand where that started. I suppose some of mine can be traced to my gene pool too.

      I hope you have some minutes of stillness today. It would be a good day for it here. The snow is still softly falling and it looks beautiful.

      Happy week to you!

  13. Your course sounds interesting and like it was a great way to celebrate your birthday. Thanks for sharing the lessons you’ve learned. This has given me lots to think about. My word for this year is “focus” so it’s interesting to think about focusing our thoughts in the moment and the impact our choice about where to focus has on our emotions etc.

    • Hi Lesley! It really was a mind-widening course. I’m so glad I took it, and I think God had quite a hand in inspiring me to look for it.

      Great word! This post does speak a little to that word. I haven’t chosen my word yet, but I’m getting there!

      Have a blessed week,

  14. Happy Birthday, Ceil! I hope it was filled with happy surprises from the Lord.

    Thanks for the insights on mindfulness. I am guilty of over-reacting to situations, especially negative ones. I’d love to be able to step back and take in more of my surroundings at any given moment, so I can enjoy all God has given me.

    My word for 2018 is LOVE. I’m asking the Lord to increase my love for my husband and my elderly mom.

    • Hi Jeanette! I know what you mean about being detoured by emotion. I really didn’t think of it as such a stopping point, but after that class, I understand that better.

      I don’t have my word yet, but I ‘love’ yours! Lol! Love is all that God is, so of course it’s a wonderful goal. Best of blessings on your 2018!

  15. You really got me thinking here, Ceil. I have a weakness for focusing on the lone moment, especially if it’s a stressful one. So to me mindfulness would be to be fully aware of the bigger picture and how God has planned out everything for our good. On another note, when I observe nature, I am fascinated by lone leaves like that as I imagine where it may land. 🙂 Even that lone leaf has a purpose in God’s grand plan, right? 🙂 Thanks for inspiring me to think deeper. 🙂 Love and hugs to you!

    • Hi Trudy! I also chose that leaf for the same reason, they always attract my attention too! So I loved how this teacher pointed out that it’s just impossible to be present to everything in one moment. Yes, love that leaf! And we don’t have to worry about missing anything. That leaf was put there just for us.

      I’m glad the post inspired you!

    • Hi Lulu! You aren’t the only one, that’s for sure. It’s good to know that we can still be mindful, not needing to stress out about missing something.

      Have a wonderful afternoon my friend,

  16. I love this! The first thing that came to my mind is at how so many, many times all I can focus on is one thing at the time and sometimes by doing that I have allowed so many other things to escape me! This is good stuff girl! Hugs and blessings, Cindy

    • Hi Cindy! Thank you for your always supportive comments. Isn’t this really good news? It makes us all feel a little bit better about that leaf. The wonderful world is filled with inspiration and beauty, we just can’t possible capture it all. But that’s okay! Just staying open, and seeing what God wants to show us is enough.

      Have a peaceful afternoon Cindy,

  17. Ah, that does sounds A LOT more peaceful… and you described ME with how I can get so irritated at that slow driver that I completely tune out everything else. I have even been in the middle of PRAYING with my kids and immediately scream ‘WOULD YOU GO ALREADY?” Shame. I know. I swear it’s almost the norm at this point. Double shame. I do apologize if that’s any consolation. But yeah, it kinda puts a little bump in the prayer road. (oh yeah, I punned.)

    I love this approach. I need to really think about this.

    Thanks for the idea, Ceil. <3

    • Hi Chris! I don’t think it’s a shame really. We’re all human, and that means we make mistakes, even when we’re praying with the kids!

      The whole idea of not being diverted from mindfulness by emotion was a new thought for me. I guess I knew it a little bit intuitively, but he really made it clear. It’ll take some thought and hit and miss on my part, believe that.

      Love the pun! Have a peaceful night,

    • Thank you Jean, I’m glad you liked the theme of the class as much as I did. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about it and trying to put it into practice too, it’s going to take some time.

      Hope you’re having a good week! Have a peaceful night,

  18. Hi Ceil! Mindfulness is truly a challenge in this frenetic-paced life we now live in, but it’s crucial to restoring and maintaining our minds and emotions to a healthy state. Just thinking about the number of distractions vying for our attention daily is mind-boggling. The discipline involved in “minding” just one thing at a time is so freeing and peaceful! Here’s to more mindfulness for all of us!

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