“For many years, at great cost, I traveled through many countries…saw the high mountains and the oceans. The only things I did not see were the sparkling dewdrops in the grass just outside my door.” – Rabindranath Tagore
The term “mindfulness” can be seen in many places today. It means different things to different people. I’ll explore some of the common definitions and beliefs – as well as share what I think it means to be mindful. I will start with the master guru of mindfulness – Jon Kabat-Zinn – truly a pioneer on the subject and the most “plain speaking” kind.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the
present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
Let’s continue….with a few deeper explanations from various mindfulness focused organizations:
1) “Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to your inner experience. For example, a mindful approach to one's inner experience is simply viewing "thoughts as thoughts" as opposed to evaluating certain thoughts as positive or negative. The term comes from Eastern spiritual and religious traditions like Zen Buddhism. However, mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that mindfulness can have many benefits for people suffering from difficulties such as anxiety and depression.”
2) “Mindfulness is a practice that involves the cultivation of a present-oriented, non-judgmental attitude. It is part of the Noble Eightfold Path practiced by Buddhists as they work towards enlightenment, as well as being a part of hatha yoga practice. It also has applications in depression treatment as part of a type of therapy called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, a type of psychotherapy aimed at preventing depression relapse by teaching patients to let go of the negative thought patterns that perpetuate and worsen depressive episodes.”
3) “In a nutshell, mindfulness is about being completely in touch with the present moment and being open to experiences as they come. Mindfulness has been around for ages. However, mental health professionals are beginning to recognize that mindfulness can have many benefits for people suffering from difficulties such as anxiety and depression.”
All of these definitions have basic commonalities within them – which takes us back to Jon Kabat-Zinn who boiled it down into a few words. My definition (non-professional of course) of mindfulness means paying attention to things around you and in you and accepting these things for what they are – not for what you think they are. Being mindful also means just having one single thought – but not controlling that thought – just accepting that thought. It can also be said that mindfulness is the antithesis of multi-tasking – something that is all too common in the world today.
Let’s face it – when we multi-task, we can only be partially effective in all the different things we are doing. When you are present and mindful doing a single thing – that is when you are at your best, your peak, your optimal ability. However, on the other side of this….we’ve missed the exit, we’ve caused an accident, we’ve sent an e-mail to the wrong person, we’ve forgotten responsibilities, we’ve completely dropped the ball on something – and we ask ourselves – how can this happen to me? People in the world today (especially the US) have become victims of the hurried, noisy, fast pace environment that we have all created and all contributed to. How can anyone pay attention and place awareness on a single thought with all the noise, chaos and calamity in our current environment? It is because of this that we must SEEK mindfulness and CREATE our own environment of awareness on the present moment.
“Mindfulness is made up of several skills, all of which require daily, continual practice.
1. Awareness - One skill of mindfulness is learning how to focus your attention on one thing at a time. Being aware of and able to recognize all the things that are going on around you (sights and sounds), as well as all the things that are going on inside you (thoughts and feelings).
2. Non-judgmental Observation - This skill is focused on looking at your experiences in a non-judgmental way. Simply looking at things in an objective way as opposed to labeling them as either "good" or "bad." An important part of this skill is self-compassion.
3. Being in the Present Moment - Part of mindfulness is being in touch with the present moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts about the past or the future. An aspect of this skill is being an active participant in experiences instead of just "going through the motions" or "being stuck on auto-pilot."
4. Beginner's Mind - This skill of mindfulness focuses on being open to new possibilities. It also refers to observing or looking at things as they truly are, as opposed to what we think they are or evaluate them to be. For example, going into a situation with a preconceived notion of how things will turn out can color your experience. This can prevent you from getting in touch with the true experience.Practicing Mindfulness - Mindfulness takes practice. The best way to bring mindfulness into your life effortlessly is to create a daily intention. As you go about your day, try to find as many opportunities as you can to practice mindfulness. The more you practice, the easier it will become to bring mindful awareness into your life experiences, which in the end may also help you cope with a number of personal issues.
Most people need something to keep them on track in practicing mindfulness all day – so that they are aware of their intention to seek out moments to practice mindfulness. They need something to help them remember; something that provides reminders to stay focused on what they’ve set out to do. Solution: the meaning to pause® bracelet. This bracelet gently and privately vibrates every 90 (or 60) minutes with a friendly nudge / reminder to keep you on track of your daily intention of mindfulness. This simple and inexpensive bracelet holds the key to keeping you focused on your daily intention and your commitment to be more aware and mindful.
For more information go to: www.meaningtopause.com
"Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t)." - James Baraz