Thriving Together Series

Thriving Together Series: Mindfulness for Well-Being


By: Katie Clare, Associate Director for Resilience Programs for the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being

“In the modern world, we live in an anti-mindfulness culture that values multitasking and rapid shifting of focus. When you first try to focus on one thing at a time with patience and curiosity, it will probably not come easily.” – Holly Rogers

There are a variety of definitions for mindfulness, but common among them is a focused awareness of the present moment. That tends to be challenging, especially without consistent practice. One reason we’re drawn to mindfulness is that we’re distracted. We’re working hard on many different tasks, day by day. Yet mindfulness is much more than just one more task to add to our busy schedules. It’s a powerful way to strengthen our well-being. By practicing mindfulness, we can learn how to manage our busy days with less stress and more peace. Here’s how mindfulness has helped me, and how it can help you on your own well-being journey.

While mindfulness is not a quick fix or a panacea, it can help us to the extent that we commit to practicing it consistently. Mindfulness requires time, effort, intention, and action. But the well-being benefits we can gain from mindfulness make it worthwhile to practice it regularly.

How Mindfulness Has Helped Me – and Can Help You

My own mindfulness practice developed over the past 20 years. There has been a natural ebb and flow to my practice – times of robust growth and times of not practicing. Looking back, it’s clear that many of the most robust periods came at points of transition in my life: when I felt unmoored, when my needs and my focus were shifting, and when my mind was working hard to make sense of challenges and distractions. Anecdotally, I know I’m not alone in this desire for mindfulness to provide some quieting – or at least settling – of the mind. As author Patricia Rockman notes, though, “True mindfulness is about intention and discernment. It is not simply about being in the present moment. It is about knowing when to deal with difficulty and when we need to look after ourselves …”.

One robust period of growth for me – a time in which I found myself multitasking even though I wanted to be in the present moment – happened when I was a new parent. The demands of being a parent and wanting to soak in the experience, coupled with work and the need to vigilantly guard my son’s safety, made mindfulness challenging and necessary. The practice of mindful parenting became extraordinarily important to me. I was given many opportunities to develop awareness of the present moment – the good parts and the frustrating parts – and to discover my ability to respond instead of react. My ability to be in control during those early years of parenting was connected to my ability to be responsive.

That ability to respond, not react, is one of the great benefits of a mindfulness practice because we become more aware of our behaviors and the ways in which emotions and experiences affect us. Honestly, it can be disconcerting at first. Through practice, though, we’re able to build a buffer, and this gives us the time to determine how to proceed. As Rockman notes, it enhances our ability to discern the best course of action. That intention, that buffer creates the opportunity to act on Viktor Frankl’s famous quote, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”

Another period in which I found myself unmoored and shifting focus occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can likely relate to this, since many people turned to meditation to manage pandemic stress. As a working mom, figuring out my personal and professional life in new ways while heeding stay-at-home orders and supporting my family was distracting. I was multitasking and managing disruptions and uncertainty. This didn’t leave energy for mindfulness or meditation. Nonetheless, finding new ways to practice and relate to uncertainty was crucial for me to navigate that period. Transition and uncertainty went hand-in-hand, and I found a foothold to anchor myself by digging into mindfulness a bit more – just like I had managed parenting a toddler by leaning into the practice.

As the pandemic continued, we all worked to make sense of a new normal, and I found myself wanting a greater sense of community for my mindfulness practice. Having a community is important in helping to sustain our efforts, to share our wins, and to brainstorm our challenges. Considering my professional life in a university setting, I took the opportunity to become trained in Koru Mindfulness. Koru is designed with emerging adults in mind. Traditional-aged college students have a unique set of needs and a unique set of distractions. The founders of Koru felt a unique approach to mindfulness was needed for emerging adults, with their limited time and their focus constantly shifting between academics, friends, family, work, missing home, and thinking of the future. While I was a Koru teacher-in-training, my own experience of mindfulness deepened. It was reinvigorated in a way that could only be done through teaching and sharing in community.

Opportunities for You to Explore Mindfulness

If you’re looking for opportunities to explore mindfulness or deepen your practice, sign up for a Koru cohort or attend Mindful Mason Moments, CWB’s drop-in programming. While Koru is designed for emerging adults, the practices can be helpful and applicable to all. Plenty of people have taken Koru with me who are not college students or emerging adults, and they have reported positive experiences. No matter what age you are or what circumstances you’re facing, mindfulness can strengthen your well-being when you practice it!

Additional Resources provides fresh articles about diverse types of mindfulness regularly.

The Greater Good Science Center presents many mindfulness resources to explore.

The Free Mindfulness Project features free guided mindfulness meditations.

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