Life is shaped by our thoughts. (Photo: Bill Smith, Flickr)

After fumbling for about four months with my mindfulness and meditation practices, I've finally regained some motivation and balance. (In my head, I'm doing a dorky, shameless happy dance about this.) 

I'm back at it more regularly, which is satisfying and calming. And I'm thankful I managed to keep up efforts enough to bring myself back to it. 

Even when my practices were waning, I thought a lot about them—the need, the benefits, the results of not practicing, how they fit into my overall life goals. 

And maybe the simple act of reflecting has given me some additional clarity. It feels that way now. 

So here are four musings I've had recently about mindfulness/meditation. 

Each morning when I step outside, I try to take a few deep breaths and really feel the morning's beauty, instead of rushing out the door and missing it. This week, I took time to appreciate simple and slightly drooping irises. (Photo: Staff)

They're a lifestyle, a mindset. 
Even when I wasn't actively meditating every day, I held on to mindful tendencies. 

I personally distinguish mindfulness and meditation, although some don't. But for me, meditation is actually sitting for a period of time in silence, focusing on breath, the present moment or a specific visualization, which can be guided by a teacher or app. 

Mindfulness can be done throughout the day and involves focusing on specific tasks and being present. It's fully engaging in whatever moment you're in without judgment and distraction. It's being outside the egoic mind. 

It's walking to work and feeling the way each footstep hits the ground, instead of meandering mindlessly or multitasking and checking emails on your phone. It's noticing and appreciating a lovely purple iris speckled with dew.

It's a certain awareness.

I definitely find it easier to be mindful when I'm meditating regularly, but I came to appreciate that I can utilize mindfulness techniques at any time. I can take a few centering breaths in a moment of stress. I don't have to be a slave to my racing, anxiety-ridden mind. 

These techniques don't make all my problems or worries go away. But they aren't supposed to.

They make you uncomfortable. 
I've touched on this before, and the idea has proved itself true again. 

Sometimes during meditation, there's nothing to do but sit with my anxiety, which is sometimes just there and outside my control. 

It'd be easier to distract myself from it, and if that distraction came in the form of cleaning or other chores (it usually doesn't), perhaps that's productive.

But sitting with anxiety, which is anchored physically in my body, is also fruitful. It's uncomfortable, but worthwhile, because it builds a resilience that can't be cultivated when the mind is distracted. 

Similarly, practicing mindfulness, especially during times of anxiety or depression, doesn't evoke the "let-me-take-a-moment-to-notice-this-lovely-flower" feeling. 

But just as important as recognizing life's beauty is being able to observe and accept unpleasant realities without judgment. 

It's not fun or easy, but it builds an invaluable wherewithal and inner strength that make dealing with the ebb and flow of emotions less painful. 

The acceptance and exploration of negative emotions also provide learning opportunities. We might be surprised what happens when we listen to ourselves and our feelings. They might be telling us something, and we just need to quiet down so we can hear the lesson. 

Additionally, what we resist will persist. Learning how to accept inevitable discontentment will allow us to move past it. 

They open up the world. 
Although practicing mindfulness and meditation can bring into focus uncomfortable realities of life, it also opens up your world in a marvelous way. 

It wakes us up; it helps combat narcissism; it creates balance and can positively impact your life perspective. 

The lessons practiced in mindfulness and meditation can be applied to life. 

During meditation, we might be able to quiet the mind to focus on the moment or breath for only a few seconds. The more you practice, the easier it gets to do it for longer, but it's natural that the mind might wander. 

Teachers will direct you not to judge yourself for that and not to judge your thoughts. You just gently redirect your focus back to the breath and the current moment. The practice might involve doing this over and over. You literally just start over every second, if needed. 

There's a certain comfort that comes when you apply that practice to daily life. Every second is a chance to start over, do something better, to change your mindset or refocus on the present moment. 

They promote a positive perspective. 
When we get outside our maddening minds, there's more room for kindness, empathy and optimism. 

When we are present, there's more opportunity to observe, listen and learn. 

When we are quiet, that's when we can connect deeply with ourselves and with life. 

All this promotes a positive life perspective, which is priceless. 

After all, life is mostly what we think it is.

The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.