Mindfulness 101

Almost everyone has heard of mindfulness these days. Put simply, mindfulness is a form of meditation designed to calm the mind and train focus only on the present moment. 

According to ReachOut.com, “When a person is mindful, they:

  • focus on the present moment
  • try not to think about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future
  • purposefully concentrate on what’s happening around them
  • try not to be judgemental about anything they notice, or label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

We spend so much time thinking over stuff that has happened in the past, or worrying about things that may happen in the future, that often we actually forget to appreciate or enjoy the moment. Mindfulness is a way of bringing us back to experience life as it happens.”

An ancient practice with its roots in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism, Taoism and yoga, mindfulness is now part of mainstream psychology, mostly because of the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who describes mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.

So, to be mindful, we need to live in the pinprick of time known as ‘the now’ and not judge what we find in that moment (just observe it as it passes through – a bit like watching boats on a lake or planes in a blue sky). It’s not dipping into the past or the future; instead, it’s being here, right now, which is really the only moment we ever truly have. Here’s how one of the greatest champions of present-moment living, Eckhart Tolle describes it:

“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time past and future the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”

And this …

“All negativity is caused by an accumulation of psychological time and denial of the present. Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry  all forms of fear are caused by too much future, and
not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”

I recently saw author of the Good Life Project, Jonathon Fields, describe mindfulness like this:

"Mindfulness is about slowing down, noticing and seeing what is really happening in front of you in this moment, without the anxiety of expectation or the haze of regret."

You can see why it's appealing, hey?

Mindfulness has so many benefits. According to Act Mindfully“practising mindfulness helps you to:

  • be fully present, here and now
  • experience unpleasant thoughts and feelings safely
  • become aware of what you’re avoiding
  • become more connected to yourself, to others and to the world around you
  • become less judgemental
  • increase self-awareness
  • become less disturbed by and less reactive to unpleasant experiences
  • learn the distinction between you and your thoughts
  • have more direct contact with the world, rather than living through your thoughts
  • learn that everything changes; that thoughts and feelings come and go like the weather
  • have more balance, less emotional volatility
  • experience more calm and peacefulness
  • develop self-acceptance and self-compassion.”

So how do we get mindful? Sitting in the stillness of meditation is certainly one well-known way, but it’s possible to get into a mindful state even when you’re in the middle of a busy morning – or any other high-stress time. Tomorrow I'll give you two ways to bring mindfulness into a busy morning. 

Do you practise mindfulness? 

Natalie Bartley