Turning Mind-Full into Mindfulness

Norma sitting by a blonde wooden fireplace
Norma sitting by a blonde wooden fireplace

As winter fades and the promise of spring approaches, my head and heart are filled with many emotions. I look at my perennial garden with anticipation as my beloved plants emerge from hibernation. And yes, that coming out of winter’s rest will involve much patience and pruning to ensure full-bloom potential. Beyond my garden, my mind wanders to the spring-cleaning that needs to be done inside the house. Most importantly, though, along with the garden and the house, I must also balance the internal, emotional tasks that need tending on a daily basis. If I fail tending to the matters of my heart — like my perennial garden — I won’t experience healthy, emotional, or spiritual blooming! 

If allowed, the combination of the internal, emotional tasks colliding with the change of season to-do lists can create spiritual chaos unless I purposely turn my mind-full into mindfulness.

Growing up, my sons, Aaron and Steven, adored the change of seasons. I have so many glorious memories of them in every season as they grew from little boys to men. 

My first-born, Aaron, was killed in a car crash in 2012. His brother, Steven, survived with a severe traumatic brain injury. While the change of seasons holds a totally different perspective today, it’s even more important as the calendar pages turn, that in tandem, I turn my mind-full of memories into moments of mindfulness, of reflecting and remembering.

So, what’s the difference between mind-full and mindfulness?

Mind-full is succumbing to waiting and worrying for the other shoe to drop. Mindfulness is having faith that even if or when it drops, I will get through it, I will overcome. 

When my mind feels full, I am learning to stop, take a breath, and remind myself that mind-full is “future-focused” whereas being mindful is “now-focused.” Mind-full adds item upon item to my to-do lists. Mindfulness lets me attempt to enjoy one moment or task at a time.

Mind-full can be messy, sad, overwhelming, unproductive … and definitely not healthy. Mindful, on the other hand, is calming and satisfying; it can bring me back to my best self.

Sometimes our minds are so full that we have no time or space to truly think. Perhaps the time has come to let go of all that noise in our heads and become mindlessly mindful — to embrace the here and now. That’s all we really have, after all.

That said, it can feel like a battle, right? Through much prayer and counseling, I am attempting to take five minutes (baby steps) each day to stop “doing” and experience “being.” Some practices I’m embracing involve spending time in nature where meditation seems to come more naturally. Instead of simply drinking a cup of my favorite tea, I’m savoring each sip. I don’t just listen to music; I take in the meaning of the sound and lyrics. Journaling and getting lost in favorite books are also healing escapes. And then there’s the simple joy of focusing on my breathing – in, out, in, out.

When you think about your mind as full of tangible items, you suddenly realize how unproductive it is to carry around a suitcase of stuff that holds no value. By freeing yourself of all that heavy stuff, you suddenly have more room to hold the hand of a loved one, embrace a friend, or make a long overdue phone call to a family member or friend. \

As a mother navigating living life with grief, coupled with a burning desire to take the physical and emotional pain away from my son who struggles with the effects of TBI, I find it more and more important to replace mind-full with mindfulness.

Grief, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, trauma, PTSD, and numerous other “labels” will always be a part of our lives, but they don’t have to control us. We all have deficits, whether relational, physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial, but as one of Steven’s life mottos has taught me, we should not allow our deficits to define us. Such a deep truth that reflects beautifully the power of mindfulness. 

Posted on BrainLine February 16, 2023.

Comments (2)

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You are amazing Norma! What a beautiful and poignant reminder to live minute by minute, enjoying the peace of the present without the dark cloud of future worry. I love my gardens too. Sending love and peace to you and the family. Rosemary Rawlins

Oh, Norma. This is so beautiful. You are so remarkable and so inspiring. Thank you. I am so grateful that you are such a wonderful friend. You and Steven mean so much to me.