What is Mindfulness? Alert – Aware – Amazed
Mindfulness is our capacity to be aware, right here, now. We all have this ability naturally. Look at a child playing and see how attentive they are; how curious, enraptured, fully engaging in the present moment. As we get older, our tendency is to develop the habit of getting ‘lost’ in the story in our head, ruminating about the past / planning for the future.
This continuous stream of thinking that we are totally identified with and believe to be ‘real’ makes us overlook and dis-regard the endless possibility and power of the present moment.
It is also exhausting as we are continuously been driven unconsciously, by the ‘to do list’ and the thoughts about ‘what I must get done today’. Many people come to a Mindfulness Course “to switch off the voice in their heads” or at least to learn how to get some rest from it.
“When you are present in this moment, you break the continuity of your story, of past and future.
Then true intelligence arises, and also love.”
– Eckhart Tolle
What is Mindfulness? How do we get it?
We can learn to be mindful again instead of experiencing every moment through ‘the veil of thought’. Mindfulness is about practicing staying present and noticing what arises moment by moment.
Meditation is how we cultivate the progressive quietening of the mind. We can integrate ‘pauses’ and short ‘awareness’ prompts into our daily life. Mindfulness is really just being aware of what we are doing while we are doing it. Aware of ‘thinking occurring’ when we are thinking. Aware of feelings arising as they are.
What is Mindfulness? is it the same as living in the moment?
Yes, when we are Mindful, we stay with ourselves and our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment. And this awareness has the quality of kindness, curiosity, openness and acceptance.
Perceiving with all of the senses (sounds around, the touch of the air on our face, the taste in your mouth) takes our attention out of the stream of thinking. We open up to recognise that we are more than our thoughts or feelings. Awareness or Mindfulness is our natural ability to be aware of or hold thoughts, feelings, sounds, how our body feels, the environment etc… without being driven by these.
We step back and observe reality just as it is, no more, no less. We see our mind’s habit of creating stories about how reality should be that make us suffer when our expectations are not met. When we are mindful, we suspend re-activity and begin to see and accept reality as it is.
What is Mindfulness and why is the research so compelling?
Less stress, worry, negativity. Better focus, work, sleep. More health, fun and happiness
Overwhelming Mindfulness Research evidence shows that mindfulness boosts the immune system, intelligence, positive emotional states, self awareness, creativity, happiness, compassion and more…
Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, when we are ‘present’ (or Mindful) we deal with whatever is happening. As we become more skilled at managing our state of mind and emotional states, we gain resilience. Then, we are empowered to use our minds effectively instead of our minds running us ragged!
We start to see things as they really are (instead of how we imagine them to be through the filter of our story and habitual patterns), so can respond effectively and appreciate more fully.
This simple 3 minute clip briefly describes what Mindfulness is, benefits and contexts.
more on What is Mindfulness and why it makes sense…
As well as all the benefits to mental and physical health, when we are present and live mindfully, we get past the ‘noise’ in our heads and begin to experience life more deeply; see that the small things we tend to ignore aren’t small after all.
… Whether it is the sound of our child’s voice or the smell of freshly cut grass, a tree in bloom, the warmth of an embrace, or a smile /gesture of kindness from a stranger…we notice and savour the sublime in the most ordinary moments of each day …. the precious moments that make up our whole life.
Read: Benefits of Mindfulness
What is Mindfulness? and how do we do it?
Mindfulness is always available to us, every single moment – we just have to remember. Breaking the habit of being engrossed and fully identified with ‘thought and thinking’ and coming into awareness takes practice. We need to give the mind a focus, something to pay attention to. Here are some simple practices that you can integrate into everyday life to help you develop Mindfulness.
- 3 Mindful Breaths – anytime – anyplace – anywhere
By giving all of our attention to the breath we can calm and still the mind. The breath is always with us, but mostly we don’t notice it. By purposely, moving our attention to our breath we come into the present moment, re-connect with ourselves and start afresh.
- Notice how your body feels – anytime – anyplace – anywhere
Can you feel your hands? the air against your face? get a sense of your feet on the floor. Purposefully, notice how your body feels from the inside. Move your focus of attention to different parts of your body. Your body is always present in the here and now.
- Choose one routine activity that you will do mindfully
It may be washing your hands or walking to the bathroom or drinking a cup of tea. It can even be sitting at traffic lights. But, make a decision to choose one activity that you will REMEMBER to wake up for and do it consciously – aware of sense perceptions, sights/sounds/touch/smell/taste…
Jon Kabat Zinn discusses ‘Mindfulness’
What is Mindfulness? Background and research evidence
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, the secular practice of mindfulness is now mainstream. This is in part, through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, which he launched in Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Since then, thousands of studies have documented the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness in general and MBSR in particular, inspiring countless programs to adapt the MBSR model for a wide variety of contexts like schools, prisons, hospitals, workplaces and beyond.
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