Intrigued by Mindfulness? Here’s what you need to know.
Leaf through any wellness magazine to see evidence of it.
And there it is again, featured on the notice board at your favourite health food store.
I bet your yoga teacher mentions it too.
What am I talking about?
Seems everyone is buzzing about it! From books about mindful eating, mindful meditation classes, and even advice on how to manage your finances mindfully, the word ‘mindfulness’ is everywhere.
But what is mindfulness exactly, and what can it do for you?
If you’ve wondered about mindfulness, I’ve got you covered.
Let’s peer under the hood of mindfulness and get you up to speed with the basics.
What it’s not.
Although the word ‘mindful’ is pretty straightforward, (mind, full) the actual concept is a little curly. Mindfulness is best understood by experience rather than a text-book definition.
But before we dive into a few easy ways for you to experience mindfulness, let’s examine what it’s not.
Have you ever hopped in the car to go the shops, only to arrive realising you cannot recall anything at all about the journey? (And realising you’ve left your list at home on the kitchen bench, damn it!..)
Or sat 5 minutes into a conversation then suddenly thinking you’ve got no idea what your friend is talking about?
These are examples of mind-less-ness. Moments when the mind is somewhere else, or ‘off with the fairies’. At these times, the mind is indeed ‘full’. Full of a mish-mash of unrelated thoughts (what’s for dinner??) vying for our attention so loudly that we miss what’s actually unfolding in the here and now.
A different kind of ‘full’
Mindfulness is the practice of directing the mind away from the sea of muddled thoughts out ‘there’ to be 100% present, engaged with and completely ‘full’ of whatever is unfolding in the right ‘here’, right now.
And ‘here’ is where it’s at, baby! Your life is happening right now. Not five minutes or five years ago. Nor is your life happening next Wednesday or in 2024. You are ‘here’.
Wanna be a star?
That’s why there’s such a buzz about mindfulness! Immersing the mind in the present moment grants us a starring role in life, rather than allowing thoughts of the past or future to restrict us to the supporting role of bystander.
I reckon you want to be the star, rather than the bystander.
Am I right?
Ok, let’s keep unpacking…
Steer away from stress and worry
When the mind is not in the here and now, guess where is it, and what is it likely doing?
Yup, it’s loping around the past, often stuck in a loop of regret, reminiscing and ‘if only’. And if it’s not there, it’s scurrying around Futuretown, a place often populated by worry, fear and projection.
The view is much brighter and better right here, and you can get here through mindfulness.
Mindfulness, already included
Put down your credit card, my friend!
Did you know you came with mindfulness already included? There’s nothing to buy, download or subscribe to. Phew! Each and every one of us has the innate and natural ability to experience the present moment, and that ability has always been there.
To embrace mindfulness, however, we need to get a bit bossy with the mind and (lovingly) reroute it back to the present moment. Mindfulness sharpens this ability to notice when we’re off wandering and return to now.
It’s on purpose
Mindfulness isn’t something that happens by chance – you gotta practice it intentionally. And while it can feel easier to daydream, immersing your mind in the present moment serves to strengthen your ‘mindfulness muscle’ and heighten awareness of the ‘nowness’ of life.
Mindfulness happens in real time
Think about your breath for a moment. Is it possible to breathe 5 minutes ago, or next week? No, it’s only possible to breathe right now.
Mindfulness is like that too; it happens in real time.
In fact, because of the present-moment-ness of breathing, it’s a wildly effective and popular tool for practicing mindfulness. Simply taking your awareness to the breath delivers a moment of blissful mindfulness that you can access anywhere, anytime.
Go on, give it a try right now: close your eyes and direct your attention to your breath. Breathing in, breathing out. Just for now, gently cast any interrupting thoughts aside; give the breath centre stage.
Ahhhh – you just practiced mindfulness. How did it feel?
It’s a judgement free zone
Another key characteristic of mindfulness is the absence of interpretation or judgement around the present moment. When practicing mindfulness, it’s the mind’s job to simply notice what’s happening in real time. If you start to enter into an internal dialogue, or judge a thought for being good, bad or ugly, then you’ve wandered off track. Get back to simply noticing what is, and accept it, and ‘tah-dah!’, you’re practicing mindfulness.
Opportunities for mindfulness
Every single moment of every single day is ripe with opportunities for mindfulness. And when you’re just starting to explore mindfulness, these little moment are perfect practice!
Let’s start with something familiar that you do everyday, and flavour it with a burst of mindfulness – brushing your teeth.
As you go about the task, the mind will wander:
‘This is so boring.’
‘What’s for breakfast?’
‘God I hate it when he leaves his wet towel on the floor!’.
‘Is that a pimple?’
Notice the thoughts. Then, engage your mindfulness muscle to gently pull your attention back to here. Get a 360 degree feel for the task. Experience:
The colour(s) of your toothbrush
The colour(s) and fragrance of the toothpaste.
The taste of the toothpaste in your mouth.
The sensation of the toothbrush in your hand – notice textures, temperatures, weight etc
The bristles against your teeth and gums
Notice the sensation of the toothpaste frothing and swirling around the mouth
Notice the movement of your arm and hand as you brush back and forth
And so on….
Rinse. Spit. That’s it!
How did it feel to experience this routine activity through the lens of mindfulness?
Wrap your head around mindfulness
Mindfulness is everywhere for good reason. It’s accessible to everyone and once mastered, offers a beautiful gateway to living life right here, right now.
Go on, practice a little mindfulness today!