What is mindfulness?
You may have already heard of the term ‘mindfulness’, as its popularity has skyrocketed in recent times. But what exactly is it?
Mindfulness, at its core, is really a very simple concept. It means bringing your awareness to the present moment (including where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling etc.) without judging or being attached to the moment. In other words, mindfulness is:
- Focusing on the here and now with openness, gentleness, and curiosity
- Paying attention to both your inner (psychological) and outer (physical/material) world
- Letting go of judgements, evaluations, or struggles with reality
- Attending to each new moment as it comes, rather than dwelling on the past or grasping for the future
Mindfulness allows us to gain insight and awareness of our experience through observation. Rather than getting lost in our thoughts and emotions, mindfulness can help us accurately understand what’s going on around us and how best to respond. Instead of being overly reactive or overwhelmed, mindfulness helps us take a step back and determine the right course of action. It also allows us to be fully engaged in what we’re doing, for enhanced performance and fulfilment.
Being mindful is the opposite of being ‘mindless’. If you often think about the past or future, act impulsively, feel ‘disconnected’ from others, lack self-awareness, or feel so caught up in your head at times that you’re unable to enjoy anything, then chances are you know what we’re talking about here. Common responses to anger, such as yelling or saying things you later regret, are often forms of mindless behaviour. The reality is that we can all benefit from being more mindful.
Mindfulness practice involves the deliberate practice of mindfulness skills. It is the repeated choice to bring your awareness back to the present moment, whenever it wanders, and to let go of attachment to current thoughts, feelings, situations, outcomes, and so on. We will cover specific skills and ways to practice mindfulness in the sections to come.