What is mindfulness? A simple definition of mindfulness is that it is the art of being fully present in the moment and completely aware of sensations and surroundings, without judgment.
When you become mindful of the present, you are not reliving the past, nor are you fantasizing about the future. You are fully aware of everything around you and everything that is happening right now.
This is Not Mindfulness
For example, let’s say that you are attending a Christmas concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra. You are listening to the beautiful music, but your attention is drawn to two people who just entered the concert hall late. You notice what the woman is wearing and where they sit down. You observe that you have a sweater very similar to the woman’s sweater. You wore that last year when you went to Kate’s Christmas party. She had great food at the party, and you especially liked her Italian Christmas cookies. You haven’t finished baking your cookies, and you still need to make some Snickerdoodles and Sand Tarts. Maybe you’ll get time on Tuesday evening.
In the example above, you are still hearing the music, but you have become unaware of your surroundings. You are no longer in the present. You think about past events and then consider what might happen in the future. You have wasted time and money for the concert, as you did not enjoy it to the fullest. You are not being mindful or totally in the present.
What Mindfulness Looks Like
Now let’s look at how the same concert looks, if you are practicing mindfulness. You are listening to the beautiful music. You listen to the familiar tunes and passages and note the special parts played by various instruments—identifying each instrument as it is highlighted. You notice the rhythm of the string instruments as they move together. You notice that it is warm and consider that you might have dressed too warmly for the concert hall, but you immediately refocus your attention back to the concert. As you are familiar with much of the music, you enjoy the original nuances, written just for the Boston Pops.
Being mindful, means that you have a much greater appreciation for the present. In the second example, you enjoyed the concert far more than in the first. You were totally involved with the music and the show, and that made it a far more memorable event.
You can learn to practice mindfulness using this excellent hypnosis program.
Children Practice Mindfulness
Children experience living in the Present Moment every day. Instinctively children already practice mindfulness! If you watch a child carefully, you will notice that he does not constantly berate himself about what happened yesterday–nor does he worry about what will happen next week. Children live entirely in the present. They are mindful!
As we grow into adults we gain responsibilities that preoccupy our minds. Adults find themselves living past events over and over. And they worry about what MIGHT happen in the future!
Mindfulness Stress Reduction
Mindfulness has finally come into its own and found a place in mainstream medicine. Professor Jon Kabat-Zin is largely responsible for this. He is the founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
The clinic has having good results with a number of psychological issues.
- Stress reduction
- Treating depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Treating substance abuse
- Treating eating disorders
- Relationship issues
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
In addition, they are also using mindfulness stress reduction techniques to treat some physical conditions:
- High blood pressure
- Chronic pain
- Sleep disorders
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Heart disease
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
When I worked on a hospital mental health unit, we used to discuss the “wouldas”, “shouldas” and “couldas”. Our clients were often literally tormenting themselves, because they did not see themselves as being PERFECT enough! In fact, most were sensitive, caring people who were being too hard on themselves.
Adults have a tendency to replay the past, only to find all the things that they might have done better.
Or, we worry about what MIGHT happen in the future, causing ourselves even more anguish. If you think about it, most of the time the awful things that you imagine might happen–never do happen! And all that worrying was for nothing!
Leaving those negative thoughts behind, will help you to be happier, healthier, and have higher self-esteem. Not to mention the stress relief you’ll find!
Learning to practice mindfulness based stress reduction only has an upside. You will become more relaxed, happier and mentally healthier if you can learn to live most of your moments in the present!
Mindfulness meditation is a way to practice being mindful. This is a simple way to get started practicing mindfulness. The first few times you try this, set aside some time so you will not be disturbed.
This is a basic meditation, and you will need to pay attention and be consciously aware of what you are doing (paying attention to your surroundings, your breath, or something visually).
You can get started easily. Here are some easy instructions to help you practice mindfulness…
- Find a pleasing place and make yourself comfortable. This can be indoors or outdoors.
- Notice your surroundings. What is around you? Take notice of the furniture. The pictures on the wall. The lighting. The floor. Or if you are outside – what do you see? – what can you feel?
- Be aware of what you are sitting on and how it feels – the texture of it – is it firm or soft? – is it comfortable?
- Are you warm or cold? What’s the temperature?
- Be aware of sounds around you – the traffic or birds outside – the sound of your breath – people next door or in the next room – or soft music in the background.
- Be aware of your physical body. The position you are sitting in. Is your jaw tight? Notice how your hands are positioned? Is there any tension in your neck? Observe every part of your physical body. Take your time.
- Now bring your attention to your thoughts. Allow them to wander as they will. Let them come in and go out as if you were watching a movie of them. Do not hold on to any one of them. Just let them flow…. being aware of them. Be aware of everything without judgment.. just BE.
- You will feel peaceful and serene and relaxed.
If you practice being in the moment, morning and night, you will be more at ease in your everyday life, peace will come easier and your thoughts will become clearer.
Practicing mindfulness is not difficult. In fact, all you are doing is becoming very aware of your surroundings and your thoughts and feelings–at the present. You are simply becoming MORE aware!
Every task or activity you do during the day can become a powerful meditation! Stay Focused! And get prepared to get more out of your life! Enjoy practicing mindfulness!