Mindfulness is a big subject these days. It’s in the news and new books are coming out all the time. The question you might be asking then is, what is mindfulness? The answer is simple and quite profound.
Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, both the internal and the external experience, in a non-judgmental way.
“Mindfulness is a practice and a way of being that allows us to be fully present in our moment to moment lives.”
Mindfulness has many benefits, but in order to reap the rewards, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of the subject at hand.
What is mindfulness? If you want to know more, read on. This article breaks mindfulness down into 5 easily digestible parts.
MINDFULNESS IS BEING AWARE RATHER THAN THINKING
What is mindfulness and what isn’t? When we are mindful, we are aware of what’s going on versus thinking about what’s going on. The difference here is subtle.
Being aware of something simply means that we know that it exists. We see it. We observe the moment like a scientist watching an experiment. We can describe the details without becoming attached to those details.
Thinking about something, on the other hand, means that we are allowing our mind to tell a story, and that story is usually subjective, it is related to our past experience of the details in the moment, or a projected fantasy about what those details will mean in the future.
When we think about something, we are not experiencing it. We are experiencing the story that we’re telling in our mind. It is very different to be aware of the color blue than it is to think about the color blue. Blue is just that – blue. The story of blue might include the first office we worked in, our partner’s eyes, or the car that bumped into us in the parking lot.
MINDFULNESS IS THE ABILITY TO FOCUS ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT
It’s important to note, in our exploration of the question, what is mindfulness, that the present moment encompasses both the internal and the external world.
When we become aware of the present moment, we learn to see the present moment as all-encompassing. The present moment includes our physical sensations, emotions and the thoughts that pass through our minds. This is our internal world.
It also includes the external world: the color of the walls, the other people in the room, and the chair that we are sitting on.
“What is mindfulness, then? It is expanded awareness combined with the ability to focus on what’s important.”
MINDFULNESS IS NOT JUDGING AND MAKE LOGICAL DECISIONS
Non-judgement is a requirement to practicing mindfulness. But wait. Aren’t we always judging something? The answer is, yes, as a rule, we are almost constantly engaged in the act of judgment. It’s a necessary skill if we are to stay safe. It’s certainly important to be able to judge if the person walking behind you on a deserted street presents a threat to you.
“The trouble is that we tend to be judging absolutely everything even when we’re not conscious of it.”
Every time we judge something as either good or bad, we set ourselves up to experience internal sensations that can disrupt our equilibrium and cause us to react rather than respond based on our values.
When we speak of equilibrium, we are talking about our internal balance, center, calm.
“When we are able to operate from a sense of calm rather than agitation, we are more likely to make logical decisions. “
For example, we have a discussion with our employee, and we judge that the discussion is a waste of time and is cutting into our lunch. This judgement will likely cause us to feel irritated and frustrated which may in turn lead us to be short or even unkind.
If, on the other hand, we step into the discussion without that judgment, simply taking the discussion as an occurrence in the moment, we are better able to stay focused and respond appropriately.
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MINDFULNESS IS LIVING FROM MOMENT TO MOMENT
We are almost always caught up judging the present moment based solely on our own stories of the past and fantasies about the future. If we are not caught up thinking about those stories, we are not caught up making judgments, and the moment that we are experiencing becomes the only important moment. We can experience it on its own.
“Mindfulness is a way of being that at least temporarily releases us from our need to judge everything based on our past and future stories and fantasies.”
By releasing us from judgment, mindfulness allows us to live from moment to moment without having our equilibrium disrupted.
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MINDFULNESS IS ACTING ACCORDING TO OUR MORAL VALUE SYSTEM
When our equilibrium is intact, we are better able to act with awareness. This is both a practice within mindfulness and a benefit of the practice.
Because we’re aware of both our internal and external experiences, we’re better able to practice non-judgment. AND to catch ourselves when judgements get in the way of our equilibrium.
When we can maintain our equilibrium, we become less reactive. When we are not reactive, we are better able to act with awareness and to move forward based on our values.
“What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is a way of being that allows us to move forward in a way that aligns with our moral/ethical value system.”
Mindfulness is a simple and profound shift in the way we approach life. Rather than moving on autopilot judging and reacting to our environment. We slow down, become aware, release judgement. And also respond to the present moment in a way that corresponds with our values.
“Mindfulness is a practice and a way of being that is worth stepping into.”
If you have examples of how you already incorporate mindfulness into your day, please share in the comment section below.