What is Mindfulness?
I often write on the topic of mindfulness, but just what is mindfulness?
Well lets approach its opposite – ‘mindlessness’ – A state we also often refer to as being on ‘autopilot. When we slip into autopilot. Research shows that the average person is in autopilot 47% of the time and completely unaware of it except for the anxiety, stress, depression and reactivity we simply call a ‘bad” day.
Well our most basic description is that mindfulness is the opposite of mindlessness. It means waking up out of autopilot and ‘taking the steering wheel’ of our attention again. We practice mindfulness by maintaining a non-judgmental
moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the surrounding environment.
Here are a few tips to further understand and develop your mindfulness.
On Purpose – Mindfulness involves the conscious and deliberate direction of our attention.
When we’re on autopilot our attention is being swept up by a never ending (and not always positive) current of thought processes but when we’re mindful we ‘wake up’ and step out of that current. On purpose’ is consciously living more awake and more fully ourselves through our presence.
In The Present Moment – If we leave it to it’s own devices our mind habitually wanders away from the present moment. Mindful attention, however, is completely engaged in the present moment experience – the here and now. We let go of the tension caused by wanting things to be different, the tension of constantly wanting more, and instead we accept the present moment as it is.
Non Judgmentally – Mindfulness allows us to become the watcher of sense perceptions, thoughts and emotions as they arise without getting caught up in them and being swept away in their current. Becoming the watcher in this way, we’re less likely to mechanically play out old habitual ways of thinking and living. It opens up a new freedom and choice in our lives.
So how do we practice mindfulness?
There are two forms of mindfulness practice. The first is the formal practice of mindfulness, which is commonly referred to as meditation. A meditation practice is commonly done sitting, usually with eyes closed, but can also be done lying down or even walking. some meditation practices also involve mantra (sound) or movement. The informal practice is the rest of your life! You see, anything we do in daily life with full awareness can be said to be mindfulness practice.
You can do the dishes mindfully, wait at the traffic lights or go for your morning walk mindfully. Any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it. There is now a huge body of research on the benefits of mindfulness. Here are some of the proven ways that mindfulness can benefit you…
Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety and other destructive emotions. Mindfulness actually shrinks the the brain’s “fight or flight” center, the amygdala. This primal region of the brain, associated with fear and emotion, is involved in the initiation of the body’s response to stress.; this is the part of the brain responsible for so many destructive emotions like fear, unhappiness and anger.
Mindfulness can literally transform your entire world from the inside out and for the millions of mindfulness practitioners around the world it does so minute by minute. If you haven’t already, why not find out for yourself, first hand. You might just discover the most incredible and wonderful surprise. That everything you’ve been searching for ‘out there’ — feelings of fulfillment, peace and wholeness — have been within you all along.
Peace and Love, Jim
Image Courtesy of J3