What Mindfulness Actually Means

There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness lately, but what does it actually mean? “Mindfulness” is a translation of the Buddhist concept of sati. Sati, which Buddhists consider the first of seven factors of enlightenment, means, “memory of the present,” and that’s exactly it: Mindfulness means to be present.

Mindfulness means to slow down, to be kind, to look at someone and not through someone. To accept that life has its ups and downs but that, in the end, the downs pass like clouds in the sky. It’s realizing that, even though it may be easier to run than to walk, it is in stillness or slowness that you start to find beauty around you and in everything that you do.

Mindfulness helps you enjoy the day-to-day and teaches you that there is no better place to be than where you are right now. You learn to see things that are unpleasant as temporary or as tiny chapters in the larger story that is your life. Our culture makes us believe that only big life events—birthdays, a promotion, graduation, New Year’s Eve—are worth celebrating. As a result, we end up underappreciating the things that we do every day.

I see people all the time who do not realize their worth. They complain because they’re so focused on what they are looking forward to that they cannot be mindful and enjoy what is in front of them. Unfortunately, as it usually happens, I had to hit rock bottom to learn this myself.

In 2010, I was navigating the crazy advertising and PR world of Manhattan, and I see now that it was not for me. Looking back, I realize that a lack of interest wasn’t the problem. Rather, I wasn’t fulfilled, challenged orenlightened.

Had I looked within, I probably would have done things differently—but I did not. To be honest, I didn’t know that I could—and I had no idea what that meant. If you are not connected to yourself because of the noise, then it becomes harder to tune into yourself and figure out what is wrong in your life.

In 2012, I suffered a health scare. I packed my bags, moved to Miami to fulfill my dreams of working on a campaign—it was Obama’s 2012 campaign—overhauled my diet, started having breakfast every morning in an outdoor jacuzzi, got sunshine and fresh air all the time, had no emails to answer, met the love of my life and started to feel whole again.

I moved to a place where time did not matter. I lived in an environment that celebrated my wellbeing. I gave myself the opportunity to live a slower life, one filled with intention. This, in turn, shifted my perspective—and perspective is, really, all that matters.

Only by slowing down did I realize that making a living is not the same as making a life. I try to sit still in the morning and at night, and often, but not always, reach a meditative state, if only for a few minutes. If it does not work, I just try again the next day. Because like your mind, your body is always changing and adjusting. So be patient with yourself.

This was published by TIME.com on May 23, 2016