Let's start with what Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmental to things as they are.
Pay attention to what? you might ask. To anything, but especially to those aspects of life that we most take for granted or ignore. For instance, we might start paying attention to the basic components of experience, like how we feel, what is on our minds, and how we perceive or know anything at all. Mindfulness means paying attention to things as they actually are in any given moment, however they are, rather than as we want them to be. Why does paying attention in this way help? Because it is the exact antithesis to the type of ruminative thinking that increases the stress, worry and pain in our lives.
First, mindfulness is intentional. When we are cultivating mindfulness, we can be more aware of present reality and the choices available to us. We can act with awareness. By contrast, rumination is often an automatic reaction to whatever triggers us. It is tantamount to unawareness, being lost in thought.
Second, mindfulness is experiential, and it focuses directly on present moment experience. By contrast, when we ruminate, our minds are preoccupied with thoughts and abstractions that are far away from direct sensory experience. Rumination propels our thoughts into the past or into an imagined future, and because science has proven that our body and minds do not know the difference between real and imagined, well we are just reliving things over and over again!
Third, mindfulness is non-judgmental. its virtue is that it allows us to see things as they actually are in the present moment and to allow them to be as they already are. By contrast, judging and evaluating are integral to rumination and the entire doing mode. Judgments of any sort (good or bad, right or wrong) imply that we or the things around us have to measure up in some way to an internal or external standard. The habit of judging ourselves severely disguises itself as an attempt to help us to live better lives and to be better people, but in actuality the habit of judging winds up functioning as an irrational tyrant that can never be satisfied.
Practicing mindfulness is more than just noticing things around us that we hadn’t noticed before It is learning to become aware of the particular mode of mind that gets us stuck when misapplied to ourselves and our emotional life. With an increasing ability to sustain mindfulness, we can explore what happens when our emotions are allowed to come and go in awareness with a non-judgmental attitude and self-compassion.
The practice of mindfulness teaches us to shift into being mode so that we can be more at peace with our emotions. Our emotions are not the enemy, after all, but messages that reconnect us in the most basic and intimate of ways with the adventure and experience of being alive.
So What is Mindfulness Meditation?
As we have seen, Mindfulness is a life skill which can deepen our sense of well-being and fulfillment. It involves paying attention to what is occurring in our present moment experience, with an attitude of openness and non-judgmental acceptance. It engages all of our senses as we open to our entire experience, becoming aware of our body, emotions, thoughts and the external environment.
As Jon Kabat-Zinn so eloquently describes it, Mindfulness is “arriving at our own door”, being in touch with ourselves, with others and our surroundings in the present moment. It is a natural and an intuitive state of presence in which we can feel more connected, real and alive.
The practice taps into the innate potential for healing that we all have. It mobilizes our ability to cultivate embodied wisdom and self-compassion, and by so doing it teaches us to live our life and face whatever arises with integrity, clarity and an open-hearted presence.
Coming to Our Senses with Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD (excerpts)
Some definitions of Mindfulness -
Knowing what you are experiencing while you are experiencing it.
- Guy Armstrong
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way:
in the present moment,
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is moment to moment awareness.
With awareness comes choice, with choice freedom,
So Awareness is freedom.
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