Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
It is often associated with meditation practice but it is more than that. It is a form of being present and aware – and this can be practiced any time by anyone anywhere. It is the awareness that arises when we intentionally pay attention in a kind and nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on around us or in our head. Mindfulness is something we all naturally possess. You can choose to seek and strengthen it, or you can ignore it. It is still here. It is a state of mind more than a tool or fix, a way of being rather than an activity in and of itself. Mindfulness is about facing and accepting anything in the present moment; not achieving anything or changing bad things when mindful we are in an observation mode. Simple but not necessarily easy!
One might say “Ok, I get the explanation so why should one be mindful?” Well most of us are living in auto pilot mode due to a thousand and one things that we have to do or intend to do thus tend to react to situations rather than being responsive. Mindfulness practice helps us cultivate awareness of the present moment without judgment – it gives us space to learn acceptance, surrender and peace. Paying attention to what is, accepting what is, and knowing that we get to choose what we focus on releases us from taking the events of our lives so personally. Essentially, we can be free.
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations in the present moment. Over time mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you pause and observe the processes of your mind. The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is to take advantage of this space so that you can make more intentional decisions—to wake up from living life on autopilot.
Being mindful can help us become more aware of our emotions before they escalate and control us. Instead of recognising your anger only after you lash out at someone, you can catch your anger when it is still mild and take steps to diffuse it if you choose to. Furthermore, mindfulness can help you look at your thoughts and emotions with more objectivity through compassion. Instead of letting minor events trigger negative thinking, mindfulness lets you take a step back to recognise you might be anxious or stressed and these emotions may be influencing your thoughts.
Mindful awareness has three key features:
· Purpose – Mindfulness involves intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
· Presence – Mindfulness involves being fully engaged and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognised simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
· Acceptance – Mindfulness involves being non-judgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. It is means that sensations, thoughts and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening”.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years, in part through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programme, which he launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979.