What is Mindfulness?

Published on January 16, 2013 by in Education, Family Relationships, Mindfulness

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In a nutshell, mindfulness is the practice of paying attention.

We often move through our days robotically, multi-tasking and running on autopilot. For example, have you ever been so lost in thought that you drove someplace and couldn’t remember the details of how you got there?

People say that time travel isn’t possible, but I disagree. I think we spend huge chunk of our lives either living in the past or projecting into a fantasy future. Remembering, planning, anticipating, imagining potential outcomes – our minds are prone to such things. Besides, healthy and responsible people should remember what has happened before and plan for the future. These are not inherently bad things for our minds to do, it’s just a matter of moderation. When we are time traveling in such ways, there is always a trade-off. What are we sacrificing that’s right here, right now, when we let our minds drift into the seas of memory and imagined futures?

There’s another serious issue to address, though I won’t go into great detail in this post. When you are not time traveling, how often are you actually present? We are a culture of distraction. I’d go so far as to say that our culture is actually addicted to distraction. Television, video games, cell phones, Facebook, surfing the internet, drinking – there’s a deep craving to be preoccupied. Let’s face it, stillness and quiet can actually make people uncomfortable; brains can throw a tantrum when not entertained in some way.

Again – it’s about balance and moderation.

So what is mindfulness? The act of returning your awareness, again and again, to your internal and external environments — without judgement. It is a practice in being fully present with whatever you are experiencing, even if what you are experiencing is not particularly pleasant.

For example, when the baby won’t stop crying and you’re exhausted, mindfulness is an invitation. What do you notice about your external experiences? Focus on your senses: the noises, the feeling of holding and rocking your crying child, the smells, the taste of a chip you’re eating.. What do you notice about your inner experiences? Where in your body do you feel stress and tension, what emotions and thoughts are coming up as your baby cries? Are you angry? Do you feel like crying too? Just notice, and accept what comes up without judgement. It’s ok to feel angry and fed up*; it’s ok for your body to be sore. Pay attention to your life, whether you “like” it or not – know that this, too, shall pass. Don’t miss it.

Yes, it’s true, our minds like to run around like hyperactive toddlers. This is why mindfulness is a practice. When you are playing with your child and you happen to notice that your mind is suddenly planning tomorrow’s schedule or thinking about a hurtful comment your neighbor made, you are invited to rejoin your child in the present moment. This is mindfulness in action: noticing that we have wandered off, and returning to the present moment. It’s a constant invitation to be here, now.

It’s amazing what you’ll notice.

.*There’s a big difference between feeling angry (totally normal) & acting on that anger (not advised). It’s ok to feel intense emotions, the real question is, how do you handle yourself when they come up?

Remember a time when your mind wandered off & you noticed?

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4 Responses to “What is Mindfulness?”

  1. julia says:

    That picture really shows nowadays life, i can see more people who look at their tablets and phones than people just staying and sitting without nothing. Do they feel so boring? I’ve have published an article about culture of distection and want to share http://writing-help.com/blog/culture-of-distraction-our-sample-paper/

    • Mo says:

      Thanks Steven, I agree – so many people are accustomed to constant stimulation from screens, that there’s a real struggle to just be. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love this! Really clear explained…and I definitly definitly should practise this, it should help also to fight this sense of permanent frustration about not having time to do it all….

    • Mo says:

      I’m glad this is helpful Gioia! Thanks for your comment. Let me know how your practice goes, the frustration of never feeling like there’s enough time is a real challenge. Do you make specific daily goals, or do you just have a never-ending To Do list? I find that I often struggle to appreciate everything I’ve actually accomplished each day because I’m always focused on what I still have left to do. Not a healthy thought pattern, it’s something I’m working with it!

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