In the mental health field, most often mindfulness is described as an integrative, mind-body based approach that helps people to manage their thoughts and feelings and mental health. It is becoming widely used in a range of contexts. It is recommended as a preventative practice for people with recurrent depression.
It is most often laid out this way: (a) some form of paying attention; (b) an ability to engage with, yet not react to, physical (including emotional) and mental experiences; and (c) a mind oriented towards non-judging, acceptance and nurturing.
Let’s All Be Jedis
“All his life he looked away. To the future. To the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing.” -Yoda
“Don’t center on your anxieties … keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs. Be mindful of the future, but not at the expense of the moment.” -Qui-Gon Jinn
I’ll be honest, when I first learned about the Jedi Way, I wanted to be a Jedi. I’ll be a bit more honest, I was 25 years old when “Star Wars” first hit the theaters. Possibly a little old to be thinking like that. I mean, it was a fantasy. Right? Manipulating the Force and all that.
I’m not sure exactly when the concept of mindfulness became a part of the Jedi Way in the movies, but when my husband jokingly asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told him I wanted to be a Jedi (so okay, this was around age 53, I’m ever the optimist, about growing up that is), he told me I would have to practice mindfulness. I took his advice to heart. Here was, I thought, something I could actually accomplish. And it might just bring me closer to being a Jedi.
Truth is, I was on that path before the “Star Wars” movies ever came out. At the very tender age of about two and a half years old, my dad tired of my incessant questions. One day he told me that he would answer any question I asked, but only once. He told me to pay attention and remember what he said because he would never answer that same question again. It should be said that he, himself, had a phenomenal memory and never forgot any question I asked him. Not even years later.
In any case, it scared me. The thought that my font of wisdom and knowledge was limited to my limitations terrified me. At the time, I couldn’t have put it into those words, but I remember the feeling very distinctly. It was very visceral.
My dad trained me to notice, observe, focus, and, most importantly, remember.
The other day, my husband lost his touch-up paint brush. It’s a unique brush. Small head, pink glittery handle, off-white bristles. Like a kids art brush.
I said to Bernd, “I’m pretty sure I saw it in the garage.”
He said, “No. I wouldn’t have left it in the garage.”
I said, “I think you did. I remember noticing it lying on the pile of drop cloths and thinking ‘Oh look. It’s Bernd’s touch-up brush.'”
He said, “No. I wouldn’t do that.”
I gave him a look and he went out to the garage to find it where it was lying atop the pile of drop cloths.
For me, mindfulness is about being aware of what you are doing. So I always keep my focus on my current task to the end of it. Bernd has a tendency to move on in his mind before he has finished his current task. So I could easily imagine him washing the brush, setting it down, thinking about something else he had to do, and never bringing the brush back into the house. Chances are good that he wasn’t even aware of having set it down. He’s always “losing” things shortly after using them.
I usually say to him something like “Where were you when you last had it in your hand?” He usually says something like, “You really expect me to remember that?”
Mindfulness is also about being aware of what I am thinking and feeling. I’m one of those women who will probably have hot flashes for the rest of her life. They started around age 51 and I’m 68 and still having them. Most often, the heat is preceded by a panic attack. This is not all that common, but a fair percentage of women experience this. My mom did so I guess there was always a good chance that was in my future. Oh well.
The panic attacks range from indistinct feelings of doom to very specific fears. They’ve taught me a lot about paying attention to my feelings and how they affect me. They’ve taught me a lot about how to manage my feelings and fears. I’ve learned how to remain calm in the face of adversity as a result. When adversity strikes you a couple of times a day almost every day, you learn to cope or you go crazy. Dark cloud, silver lining.
Mindfulness is also about being aware of how others are feeling. Compassion and empathy are important components of the Jedi Way. Ultimately, being aware of one’s own feelings can help you to be more aware of other’s feelings.
So, have I become a Jedi? Nope.
Am I on the path? Yup.
Will I ever get there? Maybe if I live long enough.
In any case, a little mindfulness never hurt anyone. And it might just help.