What is Mindfulness?
The conscious and non-judgmental awareness of your experience at it unfolds, moment by moment.
To be mindful means to be fully aware of your experiences. It is a human trait, a way of being. But it is also a skill and an ability that you can train. When you are being mindful, you attend to everything that is happening in the present moment, how you feel, what you think, what you sense and what’s happening around you. Mindfulness is thus not a passive state of mind, where your mind is empty or completely still, but it is an active and open state of consciousness where you attend to and observe your immediate experience with openness, acceptance, non-judgement and curiosity. When you are being mindful you are not being reactive or behaving impulsively. Instead you are able to choose how to respond to the thoughts and emotions that are happening inside of you, to the situation at hand, and to the people around you.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky.
Conscious breathing is my anchor”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Being mindful vs being on autopilot
Most people are familiar with the term “autopilot”, a state in which our actions are very much controlled by the thoughts that automatically appear in our minds. Other times, the thoughts are not so dominating and we experience a more immediate connection with ourselves and our surroundings. By training mindfulness, you learn to cultivate a form of present moment awareness that helps you register what’s happening in your field of awareness at every moment in time.
How do you practice mindfulness?
Mindfulness is practiced through formal exercises, such as meditation and yoga, as well as informal exercises, such as when you brush your teeth or take a shower. As such, mindfulness can be practiced at any moment of the day. All you have to do is to consciously bring your awareness to your present moment experiences, without judgement, and with an open curiosity to be with what is. However, this is easier said than done, as your inner autopilot often takes over and shifts your focus away from the present moment and into the past or future, or is taken over by habitual and reactive ways of thinking and behaving. With mindfulness you learn to step out of your autopilot mode of being and into a more aware and calmer way of being.
Why is it good for you?
Mindfulness training can be used by anyone who’d like to become more present in their lives and who’d like to find greater inner peace and stillness. It is also an effective and well-documented tool to reduce stress and to increase overall life satisfaction.