I know I talk it about it often on here but really, what is mindfulness? The first time you hear about it, it probably sounds a little strange. A couple of people have looked at me like i have 2 heads the first time I tried to explain it to them.
So what is Mindfulness?
In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness is “the awareness that arises when you pay attention to the present moment, on purpose, with kindness, curiosity and non-judgement”.
So, it’s about awareness, that sounds simple enough, right? Only it’s a lot more complex than it sounds.
Paying attention, really paying attention, can be challenging. There are so many things that can distract us. Our phones, social media, work. Even our thoughts can distract us from really being present in the moment.
But the thing is, that moment when you realize you are having a thought? That right there is awareness.
So you notice the thought or whatever has distracted you. You observe it without holding onto it. No judgements. It’s not good or bad, it just is. And you let it pass and come back to the moment.
A common phrase used is to “Begin again”. Each time you find yourself coming out of the present moment, when that moment of awareness happens, you begin again.
A mindfulness practice
Both the formal and the informal mindfulness practices help to teach you how to be more present. Formal practices are the meditations. By using a guided meditation app (like Headspace) or recording on a regular basis you start to become more familiar with recognizing when you are experiencing a thought and coming back to the breath. Self guided meditations are good too.
Informal practices are the moments in your day where you do an activity with a mindful intention. Starting small with something like brushing your teeth. Working up to to being able to eat a meal mindfully. Increasing your moments of mindful attention moment by moment, practice by practice.
Think about it, have you ever brushed your teeth mindfully? These little daily activities are usually doing mindlessly. We are so used to them that we don’t even have to think about them. How many times have you got into the car to drive home and when you get there you can’t even remember the drive?
With a mindfulness practice, you start to be more present in each moment of your day. So when you are sitting in a room talking to a friend or a loved one, you are actually in the room with them. Your not only slightly there but also mentally composing tasks for work. You’re also not thinking about that time that you did something super embarrassing. Or if you are, once you realize what has happened you bring your attention back. You begin again.