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How I Finally Understood Why I Need to Learn Mindfulness

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I’m always told I need to practice mindfulness.

“Be more mindful.”

“It will help your OCD.”

But no one explained it in a way that clicked. If I can’t see a practical benefit to something, I won’t do it. It’s part of my obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I operate in cost-benefit analysis mode with everything. It’s infuriating and it’s on the to-fix list, but that’s not the mountain I’m climbing right now.

Whenever someone tells me to be more mindful, they follow it with wishy-washy generalizations, like:

“It’s good for you.”

“It will focus your mind.”

“Make you more present in the moment.”

They said that about yoga too, and when I did that I had panic attacks. But when I learned you need a calm mind going into yoga practice, I found a new approach. Now, I’ll only do yoga after intense cardio. When my body is exhausted, my mind doesn’t have the energy to fill the space yoga provides.

It’s the same with mindfulness.

And today, it clicked. I was making the same breakfast I’ve made every day for years. I realized I’d forgotten one of the main ingredients. Easily fixed, moving on. Breakfast all made, I went to fetch a spoon only to get back and find a spoon already in my bowl. I thought, “What the hell is wrong with me today?”


I was so busy thinking, funnily enough, about mindfulness that I had zero awareness of what I was actually doing.

And that happens a lot. I regularly find myself deodorant in hand, wondering if I’d already put it on or was just about to. Or missing entire conversations, TV shows, book chapters. I’m moving through the motions, but my mind is in an alternate dimension.

It seems like forgetfulness but you can’t forget things you were never really present for. That’s when I realized why I need to learn mindfulness. It’s about training your mind to be present and accounted for. To participate in those actions. To witness those events. To log those memories.

And for anxious, obsessive people like me, it’s about letting go. Teaching my mind that danger isn’t around every corner. It doesn’t always have to be “on.” The world will not fall apart in the time it takes to eat breakfast.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Originally published: July 23, 2019
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