Have you been hearing about all the benefits of mindfulness but not quite sure what it involves? Let me break it down for you.
One of the most well know definitions of mindfulness is by Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn “The awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally”.
What he means is that mindfulness is our decision to place focused attention on this present moment instead of getting lost in our busy thoughts. For example, the ‘present moment’ anchors can be watching your own breath, listening to sounds or noticing all of the sensations in your body. Our thoughts are usually always in the past or future and often cause unnecessary suffering by creating feelings or tension about a situation (worries, anxiety, judgement, shame, guilt etc).
‘On purpose’ means it is an awarenesses training and takes time to build up the mental strength to focus on one thing. In the beginning it can feel like a game of awareness tennis, between our chosen ‘present moment’ anchor (breath, sound, body) and the thoughts. We start by putting our full awareness onto the breath but then ping a thought pops up (such as our ‘to do list’), so we keep choosing to come back to the breath again and again. Eventually it becomes easier to focus for longer as your mental strength increases.
‘Non judgmentally’ means we embrace the experience as if it was the first time – every time. The mind will want to say ‘this is boring, I have better things to do, I am tired, is this even working?’ This is all resistance to what is. If we can’t be with ourselves for a few minutes we will want to consistently fill that void with food, social media, shopping, tv, distractions etc etc.