The Art of Chaotic Mindfulness
Intentional presence in everyday garbage fires
Odds are, you’re picturing someone cross-legged in an empty room, wearing athleisure pants and looking effortlessly chilled out. Mindfulness likely smells like a spa and tastes like a kale smoothie. It asks you if you’ve tried essential oils for your chronic pain. It probably has a bunch of well-organized, expensive highlighters for its Target notebooks.
When I talk to people about mindfulness — whether they’re clients at work, family, friends, my barista, some guy on the train — these are the images they tend to think of. Talking about mindfulness is actually the opposite of relaxing for many people, especially those who have dealt with a lifetime of invalidation surrounding mental and physical health concerns.
Who could blame them? Much like “self-care” and “coping skills,” mindfulness has become a mental health buzzword — a vague idea of something you should feel guilty about not doing enough. Like exercising, taking vitamins, and calling your relatives. I felt that way for a long time, too — and then I began working on a Dialectical Behavior Therapy treatment team. DBT is inextricably linked to mindfulness, so I began getting up close and friendly with the concept. This was when I really got to meet mindfulness for the first time.
Nearly anything you can do can be done in a mindful way.
Let’s get something straight: Mindfulness isn’t about one specific action. In fact, it often works better if you apply it to something you’re already doing. Mindfulness is intentionally existing in the moment without judgment or attachment. You don’t have to be meditating to be practicing mindfulness — you can mindfully eat barbecue sauce, mindfully take a shower, mindfully listen to the hit song “Run Away With Me” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Nearly anything you can do can be done in a mindful way.
To illustrate how mindfulness can be practiced amid everyday life, imagine this classic activity we all associate with tranquility and mindfulness: cleaning old food out of your fridge while your Craigslist-borne roommate, Trevor, blasts Eminem in the other room so loudly that you feel like your bones will turn into…