What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a beautiful practice that helps in connecting and being rooted in life as it flows by. It involves getting our minds back to the present and paying attention to the life that is unfolding right now within us and around us.

Definition of Mindfulness?

Some aspects of mindfulness are well covered by the definition of mindfulness provided by Jon Kabat Zinn:

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.”

Our attention and where we apply it is all that is in our control. Nothing else really is. We canot control whether a thought comes our way or a memory emerges. But we can decide whether we want to attend to it or not.

It is about being deliberate and choosing consciously with a certain degree of awareness. You consciously choose what you wish to pay attention to-what is healthy to attend to in this moment. By being conscious and aware you can change the reactive habit patterns that have been conditioned over years.

Life in always unfolding in the here and now. In the present moment. It is only in the now that we can truly connect to and engage with life. Every other moment where we put our mind- be it past or future or fantasy- is only in our imagination, it is truly non-existent.

It’s not about liking or disliking the present moment. It is not about wanting or not wanting it. It is simply about staying with it, witnessing it, connecting to it. Non-judgmental acceptance of experience alters the way a difficult situation is handled. Responses can be skillfully selected choices rather than reactions driven by habitual emotional and physiological behaviour patterns.

This is another very crucial aspect of the mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is not a practice of force. It is a practice of compassion and gentleness. It is a way of bringing the mind to the present without being forceful towards it, without a achievement mindset.

woman meditating

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Benefits of Mindfulness?

While mindfulness has many benefits, these ideally should not be the incentive to practice. Ironical as it is, mindfulness isn’t practiced to achieve benefit, but only to realize the truth of the reality that is in this moment.  So it is important to leave aside the achieving mindset and simply be open and attentive to watching what is going on.

Most benefits mentioned below are incidentally a result of a more centered mind and body, which is a natural outcome of mindful living.

Mindfulness meditation can improve the immune system thereby boosting the ability to fight illness.
Mindfulness increases positive emotions, betters decision making abilities, and works towards managing depression
Relationships are enhanced by mindfulness as each person feels relaxed, positive and accepting
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Why Practice Mindfulness?

If we need to live well, we almost do not have an option but to pay attention to our life as it is unfolding moment to moment.  Mindfulness is about wisely paying attention to what is occurring within and outside us without judging it. It helps us because most of our suffering comes from our mind. It comes from judgments about how life is not good enough or how it should be bettered. It comes from continuously interpreting rather than experiencing it  and from our lack of clarity about the nature of reality.

As Henepole Gunaratna says

So why bother? Why waste all that time and energy (meditating), when you could be out enjoying yourself? Why bother? Simple.  Because you are human. And just because of the simple fact that you are human, you find yourself heir to an inherent unsatisfactoriness in life which simply will not go away. You can suppress it from your awareness for a time. You can distract yourself for hours on end, but it always comes back–usually when you least expect it. All of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, you sit up, take stock, and realize your actual situation in life.

As you practice mindfulness, you can slowly begin to have a better connection with your life. As that connection increases, you start slowly teasing apart what is actually happening from the mind’s commentary of what is happening. You can see the present moment for what it is- brief, fleeting, ever changing.

Mindfulness FAQs

Mindfulness and meditation are used interchangeably often. However mindfulness is actually the larger umbrella. The practice of being present. Meditation is a technique by which the brain is gradually trained to be mindful. Apart from formal meditation practice other informal mindfulness practices also aid the larger attempt to stay mindful.

Mindfulness is for everyone young and old irrespective of social, economic, and cultural background. As it is a mental state and a practice that has no religious connotations, people across beliefs and faiths can experience mindfulness.
As humans we get pushed and pulled by life, relationships and circumstances which we attempt to manage in our own way. Mindfulness is just a way to perceive and authentically stay with what is happening within and outside. An attempt to put aside the solution focused mindset just for a little while and experience with openness and acceptance what we are going through, what each and every one of us is going through.

Mindfulness does help you to feel relaxed but it can also make you more restless when you sit for meditation initially. It allows you to see the connection of your mind and body. A restless body reflects a restless mind. As you make this connection repeatedly , you start to realize the mind body sync. As you stay more and more present to life, the restlessness of both your mind and body decrease over time and you start to relax better. So it is more a relaxed way of living than a momentary relaxation training.
Mindfulness is for everyone young and old irrespective of social, economic, and cultural background. As it is a mental state and a practice that has no religious connotations, people across beliefs and faiths can experience mindfulness.
Mindfulness needs to be practiced without an achievement mindset. Mindfulness is not a linear skill. Yes you do get better at being mindful with practice, but that is not the goal. Unlike learning a sport where your final intention is to play very well, mindfulness is about just being in the here and now. To whatever extent that awareness gets cultivated is helpful but there is nothing to achieve or see in terms of results.
Mindfulness and meditation (also one way of attaining mindfulness) are seen primarily as spiritual practices, because of which there is resistance, both by people belonging to different faiths and by people who believe that thinking and reasoning through a situation is the only way out of it. The truth is that they do not require you to take any leap of faith or believe in something that you cannot experience or change your religious affiliations. In fact mindfulness is a most logical, rational practice for  it says only the present for now is real. The rest is a product of our own mind which stimulates itself by staying in the past or the future or in weaving stories about our lives-stories in which we have immense faith. But what truly can be experienced in reality and not in imagination is only what comes in through all our sense organs in the ‘now’, in the ‘present’.
Mindfulness in fact can make you more present and more aware of your life as it unfolds now. It can open up an appreciation of the little joys of life. Although it can make you less attached as you give up controlling your environment and relationships, all to your own benefit and the benefit of people around you too.
Only to the extent that knowing yourself well can be harmful. However some individuals may have stored up years of unexpressed emotions. In such a situation attempting the exercises of sensing emotions can be overwhelming. We suggest that they simply work with practices of focusing on open awareness of present and breathing. If closing eyes is difficult, meditating with open eyes gazing on the floor is also can be attempted.

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