often described as Paying Attention … On Purpose… in the Present Moment … Non Judgmentally…
But, the first step to becoming more AWARE; to becoming more MINDFUL is the realisation of how little attention you pay to your own inner and outer experience right now. To notice how you operate on ‘Automatic Pilot’ much of the time.
Your attention just being pulled here and there; often ‘lost’ in the story your mind is telling you!
This means that you miss the moment with all its fullness and choice; in fact, you could miss your whole life!
So, Mindfulness training is about developing mindful attention through both formal (meditation) and informal (being present to what you are doing eg.. driving, walking, having a cup of tea) practice.
Everyone knows that training makes our body stronger, fitter and more flexible. Now, neuroscience research shows that mindfulness training cultivates the innate capacities of the mind to be present, to step out of automatic pilot and to create space so that we can be clearer, calmer, more focused, more creative, even more compassionate.
People come to a Mindfulness Course with Intentions of what they hope to gain from practicing Mindfulness. It may be: peace of mind or ability to cope with stress, anxiety or more happiness and release from negative rumination. The invitation is to be aware of your intention and ‘let it go’ but the strength of your intentionality, your vision of who or what you might be is the foundation that motivates you to practice daily.
In the Present Moment
As Jon Kabat Zinn says: “The present is the only time any of us have to be alive – to know anything – to perceive – to learn – to act – to change – to heal”
Your attitude makes all the difference! It has been described as the ‘soil’ in which you cultivate your ability to calm your mind, relax your body, concentrate and see clearly. Mindfulness flourishes when you nurture non judgement and other attitudes:
- Patience : Change takes time. Fostering your capacity to be patient like a gardener planting a new seed.
- Acceptance : doesn’t mean resignation. Mindfulness is about accepting how you feel right now, what is going on right now rather than denying or resisting it. Acceptance first, ability to act if required comes later.
- Kindness : Bringing warmth, tenderness and caring compassion to your moment to moment experience. Noticing and paying attention to your heart as well as your head.
- Trust : Having confidence / belief in life and your inner self and letting things unfold.
- Curiosity : Being curious about your experience. How do you feel? What kind of thoughts are going through your head? What else is going on?
- Letting go : You don’t need to ‘make it happen’ or to hold onto pleasant experiences and block unpleasant experiences. Have a sense of a light touch to experience.
- Non–judging : Observe deeply whatever you are experiencing AS IT IS, rather than classifying it into good or bad, like or dislike which closes the experience.
- Non–striving : Allowing yourself to be receptive for whatever your experience is rather than chasing a goal for another experience and striving to attain it.
- Beginner’s mind : Nurture your sense of being a beginner rather than an expert; like a young child; innocent, open, exploratory.
These attitudes are not how we normally function. We tend to be very judgemental, impatient, skeptical, always pushing, making assumptions, jumping to conclusions, holding onto grudges…. So, it is such a pleasure to see how surprisingly effective it is to cultivate these new habits. Not only do they develop our ability to be Mindful; they also allow us to flourish!!!
This blog was written by Joanne O’Malley, Mindfulness at Work.