What is Mindfulness?

You may have heard the terms ‘mindful’ or ‘mindfulness’ somewhere in recent years .  Maybe your yoga teacher or therapist used them, maybe even your guitar instructor or sports coach.  You might have a vague sense that mindfulness has something to do with meditation.  But what is mindfulness, really?

Mindfulness is a particular way of directing one’s attention.  It means to pay attention to what is happening for you right now, in this moment.  It also means to deliberately suspend judgment, noticing thoughts but choosing not to get involved with them.

So, in this moment, you could notice what your feet feel like, right NOW.  You probably have feet (if you don’t, use hands or any other part of the body–extremities like hands and feet are obvious and so are a good start).  So just notice what your feet feel like, any sensations at all such as tingling or pressure or warmth or cold.  Let your mind linger briefly on these sensations without judging them.  Notice the mind’s tendency to label, judge and create a narrative.  “Oh, my feet are cold.  This office is poorly heated!”

Why do this?

Because 99.9% of the busy day we are caught up in our thoughts.  This is not a bad thing.  Thinking is not ‘bad’ or ‘good’, it just is.  Sometimes thinking is useful, sometimes it isn’t.  To be effective in the world, it is helpful to get some flexibility in terms of when we want to be “thinky” and when we just want to be present to what is happening.

If you like what happened when you paid attention to your feet, or you are curious to see what more can come of this, practice for a few moments a day, perhaps a few times per day.  You may also want to try 5 minutes of mindful breathing, just allowing your breath to be as it is, and paying attention to the sensations of breathing, non-judgmentally, noticing thoughts as thoughts.

I could tell you what the benefits of mindfulness are, and probably will here soon.  But maybe you have an intuitive sense of what promise this kind of practice can hold?  If you choose to, explore for yourself what mindfulness is and can be for you.

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