What comes to mind when you think about mindfulness? Vegan hippies? The smell of incense and patchouli? Sitting crosslegged on pillows in a circle, talking about our feelings, and/or crying?
These are all judgements and stereotypes. These are things that I, myself, have thought back when I was a soldier. Mindfulness is not something that was brought up while I was in training. Should we ever mention that we had feelings (that wasn't in confidence with a chaplain), we were laughed at and ridiculed. I can't complain, I was one of those people that told others to toughen up.
Now, being out of the military and having found my own way, here's what mindfulness is in a nutshell: being present. Being present not only in the moment of what's going on but in the moment of who you are.
On a regular basis, we busy ourselves with every task and thought and idea that we can possibly have. To do lists, errands, bills, relationships, kids, parents, evaluations, missions, jobs, money, houses, food, etc etc. We are constantly bombarded with everything and everyone. Every little ding or beep from our phone is another reminder of something that needs to happen or someone we need to connect with. No wonder our mind wanders and we seek that little bit of escape. What needs to happen is that life needs to simplify.
It's common to hear from military personnel that it's so easy being deployed. From personal knowledge, it really is. We have a bunk to sleep in that is provided to us. Food is prepared for us. Single clear-cut missions to complete. Bills for the most part are paid by the family members at home or put on hold. Recreation is limited simply because of access but we still find great joy in those few things. We have the time to sit around and do nothing. Life is simple. We know who we are during that time. We are soldiers. We are mindful in that way. We know what our bodies need. We know what our minds need. We are focused on what needs to get done.
Now we just need to take that clarity of a deployed environment and bring it home. That is super tough. Take a look at your life and simplify it. Basic needs: food, house, relationships, self care, and a job. Take it slow. Focus on your basic needs. What needs to happen for those basic needs?
Be in the moment. When you're with friends or family, BE with friends or family. Don't go checking your phone all of the time. Don't be thinking/worrying about other things that need to get done.
Figure out who you are. In the current moment, who are you? Here's an example: right now, I'm a former vet turned life coach explaining mindfulness. Right now, I'm not a mother. Right now, I'm not a cook. Right now, I'm not even a wife. And with this knowledge of who I am right now, there comes this flow. This state of being where you are just in the zone. THAT is being mindful.
When things are starting to get crazy, and your mind can't seem to stop worrying about all of the crap that needs to get done, break it down. Write lists if you need to. Write things is succession (can't pay bills until your paycheck comes which is next week so why are you worrying about it today?). What needs to get done today? Focus on those things. When those are done, then you can see about working on the next issue.
One of the best sayings I learned in basic training that I still say today, "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast."
Slowing down and focusing on the current task at hand is being mindful. Take a deep breath and slow down. Not everything needs to get done or solved today.
Here's something that every soldier has done without even realizing it: meditate.
Think back on when you just sat on your bunk/chair/floor/vehicle, listened to music, and just let your mind go. You weren't thinking of anything in particular. You didn't focus on anything particular. Thoughts may have come and gone, but you didn't stress on it. That's a form of meditation. Keep that up. Do it everyday.
The mind gets troubled when you think of something, stop the thought halfway through, and shove it in some dark corner of your brain. Then at the worst possible second, that thought pops back up on you. Your brain wants to finish the thought. Give it that time to finish thoughts. Meditate and let your brain wander. Let it complete thoughts so that they won't pop back up randomly and haunt you. Your brain and your body will thank you.
To wrap this all up, being mindful is being in the moment and knowing who you are in that moment. Don't react to your emotions or your stray thoughts. Choose who you are and choose your actions.