What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment.
Attention is self-regulated with an attitude of open hearted, non-judgmental acceptance of what one is observing.
An awareness of one’s conduct and the quality of one’s relationships are intrinsic elements of the cultivation of mindfulness. –Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness practices invite us to pause, be present in the here and now, and savor life more fully. This fosters inner peace, emotional balance, and a sense of well-being.
Mindfulness practices expand our capacity to pay attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations as well as notice the interactions between them. For example, as we gently follow our breaths moving in and out, we acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without being swept away.
Mindfulness increases our ability to focus on the task at hand and sustain our attention.
Mindfulness enables us to be aware of our impulses and stress reactions in order to calm ourselves and choose more thoughtful responses. We become more response-able.
Mindfulness allows us to compassionately observe our own distress with warmth, concern, and good intentions. This fosters compassion for others.
Mindfulness helps us to be present and listen deeply to others. We gain insight and understanding.
Mindfulness encourages us to nurture our innate gifts to live a life of meaning and purpose.
Mindfulness cultivates loving kindness and response-ability towards oneself, others, and the earth.
In-the-Moment Mindfulness Practices
Mindfulness processes are learnable skills. Formal mindfulness practices include mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Mindful awareness can be cultivated in many other ways such as yoga, tai chi, and body-centered psychotherapy.
By directing our attention in the moment, day-to-day living provides wonderful opportunities to expand our capacity for mindfulness. Integrating these practices into daily life takes little effort and time. They are simple acts, but not easy to remember to do! Jon Kabat-Zinn, renowned for bringing mindfulness into the mainstream, emphasizes that "mindfulness in everyday life is the ultimate challenge and practice." Be gentle with yourself, and remember these are practices. The instant you recognize that you are not mindful, you are mindful. A single moment of awareness brings you home to yourself.
Bring mindful awareness to your activities,
one moment at a time
- Take short breaks to appreciate the present moment. Notice your breath moving in and out. Pay attention to what comes through your senses—what you see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
- Focus your attention on doing one thing at a time. When you are eating, just eat; when you are walking, just walk.
- Make time for mindful transitions. Create the space to pause between
tasks, reflect, and reorient.
- Practice nonjudgmental awareness. Observe your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. Be open and curious. Notice when you are lost in the past or caught up in the future. Accept whatever is present and be at peace in knowing it will pass.
- Accept yourself and others with compassion. Monitor your self-talk.
Practice loving speech.
- Be present to others. Listen deeply when someone is talking with you.
- Choose to be happy. Choose to be content with what you have.
Appreciate that you have everything you need to be happy in this moment.
Express your gratitude often.
- Calm stress. Notice your body's stress signals, and calm yourself. Take some deep breaths, stretch, and shift your attention to something positive.
- Be response-able. Be aware of when you are reactive. Make the choice to
calm your body and mind, and choose more thoughtful responses.
- Demonstrate kindness. Be kind and thoughtful in your actions towards
others and the earth. Bring your own bags to the grocery store, and smile at
the clerk who is having a bad day.
- Value yourself and what you have to contribute. Recognize and
develop your innate gifts. You make a difference in the world.
- Remember that mindfulness is a practice. Practice for short times, several times a day. Like physical fitness, developing mental fitness is an ongoing daily activity that yields greater results over time.
"Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity."
Mindfulness: A Guide for Teachers,
PBS Teacher's Live Webinar, 2012
"Life becomes beautiful when
you learn to live in the here
and now. You can make a step
and touch the earth in such a
way that you establish yourself
in the present moment, and you
will arrive in the here and now.
You don't need to make any
effort at all. Your foot touches
the earth MIND FULLY, and you arrive fully in the here and the now.
And suddenly you are free –
free from all projects, all worries,
all expectations. You are fully present, fully alive, And you are touching the earth."
—a sign in the Himalayas
"Our breath is the bridge
from our body to our mind."
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Moments of Mindfulness,
Parallax Press, 2005
BE the change you want to see
in the world.
—Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi