What is Mindfulness? I am asked this quite a lot, but one person (whose mind seemed to be saying “hurry up, I don’t have time for this”) recently asked me to define mindfulness in just a few words. They seemed to be in a bit of a rush for an answer so may well have been in a state of ‘mindlessness’ – already preparing to move onto the next task in their mind. So, although they had asked for clarification about what mindfulness is, their mind had already taken them into another dimension ‘the future’.
Many live in a constant state of being in the past or future, rather than living in the now. An example of this could be a person washing up the dishes but their mind is drifting on to something that happened earlier in the day or a future event. Or perhaps they are focusing on time “if I don’t hurry up, I’ll miss the start of the TV programme” etc. That person is ‘washing up to watch TV’ etc. They are not mindfully present in washing up, their mind is wandering off elsewhere and it is in control. Mindfulness practice helps us to focus our mind and to engage fully in what we are doing – to become one with life in that very moment, rather than worrying about the past or future.
So, let us explore what mindfulness is and why it cannot be defined in just a few words.
Phrases like “living in the moment” or “being present” give an initial introduction of what mindfulness is, but asking “What is mindfulness?” is a bit like asking “What is art?” or “What is love?” Fully discovering the depths of mindfulness requires time and exploration. There is a wealth of meaning in the experience of mindfulness that can enrich our lives in unimagined ways.
I’d like to share with you my view on what ‘Mindful Living’ (or mindfulness) is with the hope that you may gain something from it to help you to be more focused on ‘living in the now’.
I see mindfulness as a way of being. It’s not doing, it’s a way and a quality of being. It’s a way of being in a relationship with yourself. It’s about recognising what’s going on in your body, mind, and heart. It’s how we respond to our circumstances. How we look at them, how we look at others and the outside world.
We can define the term mindfulness as paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, non-judgementally. Those two aspects, on purpose and non-judgementally, are key aspects to unblocking our negative thought patterns. Our thinking habits are often the exact opposite, subconscious and judgemental. We can create thousands of negative ways to view our ‘mind storm’ in an instant. So we can be living with constant worry, fear and regret which is a constant stress. This mind talk is about what’s happening inside your head and most waking moments many of us are living in narratives in our minds. Those narratives are very powerful and they impact on the way your entire body works. When we, or someone we love, are hurting, whether the source is illness, a divorce, a break-up, depression, or any other such thing, we can take it upon ourselves to attempt the sometimes impossible task of fixing it – making it ‘as it should be’ in our mind. We spend much of our time thinking of ways to fix, overcome, avoid, etc. but little time in recognising the benefits of truly being in the present moment. This leads us to become very much driven with these goals of things to do, and in doing so we lose ourselves.
Mindfulness helps us come back to who we really are and to re-connect with the present moment.