Mindfulness: What Is It?

You see the word mindfulness used so often nowadays, but what exactly does it mean?

It might be helpful to think about what it doesn’t mean for a moment. Mindfulness is not:

  • Sitting on a meditation cushion for hours in total silence
  • Being perfect in every way
  • Having all the answers (even to the questions you haven’t asked yet)

Mindfulness CAN be easy. Living a mindful life shouldn’t feel burdensome or like yet another task to add to your list.

Put most simply we can say that mindfulness is paying attention – to what’s happening in the present, to what you’re doing, and to your environment.

It’s the opposite of multitasking. You don’t have to schedule mindfulness or study it in a group. You can practice mindfulness right now, as you read this article.

Mindfulness is a process that keeps you focused. It sounds easy, but it’s human (and perfectly understandable) for our “monkey minds” to get distracted. Instead of focusing on the present, the “monkey mind” leaps about, to and fro, brooding over events from the past or worrying about the future that hasn’t even happened yet.

A mindful approach treats the monkey mind kindly, and gently brings your attention back into the present.

Mindfulness is not a fashionable social media slogan. Studies have shown that incorporating mindfulness into your life has real physical and emotional benefits:

  • Decreased stress levels and an improved capacity to cope with adversity
  • Lowered levels of anxiety and depression
  • Increased clarity, attention, and brain function
  • Increased immune system functioning
  • Lowered blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improved general well-being

Mindfulness can also improve relationships as you become less reactive to situations and more resilient.

You can start to incorporate mindfulness into your life right now. It needs no equipment, no studying ancient texts, or any unique ability. You don’t need to change or get fit. You already have everything you need to be present. You only need gentle encouragement to keep bringing your attention back to what is happening right now.

To begin with set aside a little time to explore what mindfulness means for you using the steps below:

  1. Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed. Leave your smart phone and computer in another room.
  2. Sit comfortably and start to quietly observe the current moment.
  3. Let thoughts, anxieties, and judgments pass by, like a cloud floating by you on a breezy day.
  4. Notice – Where is your mind now?
  5. Gently return your attention to the present moment.
  6. Be kind to yourself and don’t worry if your mind wanders. Gently bring it back to the present moment.

Use this gentle practice over the next 21 to 28 days (remember, this is the time needed to start building a new, positive habit) to help you build quiet space into your life, to slow down your reactions, and to help you break down conditioned responses from your easily distracted “monkey mind”.

Mindfulness encourages you to be more thoughtful in dealing with what is right in front of you, right now.