About Mindfulness What is Mindfulness?
“Remember then: there is only one time that is important–Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power.”
— Leo Tolstoy
Jon Kabat-Zinn, often heralded as the founder of contemporary mindfulness, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way: (1) on purpose, (2) in the present moment, and (3) nonjudgmentally”. Essentially, mindfulness is about making a conscious effort to fully connect with the present moment. Although this may sound simple, it is astounding just how much time we all spend worrying about the future, or ruminating about the past. This lack of contact with the present moment can lead to much suffering, and can also be responsible for inefficiency and dissatisfaction with one’s life.
Mindfulness has historic links to Buddhism, however has more recently been secularized and integrated into contemporary psychology because of its, now well established, healing potential. Mindfulness is now regularly and successfully used as a treatment for a range of both physical and psychological ailments, and has also been applied in a variety of performance and sports psychology settings (see this article for a review of the vast benefits associated with mindfulness).
Mindfulness also has qualities beyond purposeful present moment awareness, in that it requires us to adopt a nonjudgemental stance. This means just noticing whatever occurs in the present moment, instead of evaluating or judging what occurs. For example, many people would evaluate a flushed face as negative, because it may be associated with feelings of anxiety, however, mindfulness would encourage you to just notice this phenomenon (e.g. “I am aware that my face is feeling hot” instead of “my face is flushed, this is awful! Something bad is about to happen!”). The nonjudgmental aspect of mindfulness also encourages us to have self-compassion in regards to our mindfulness practice. This can be particularly difficult for many of us, as we all have a desire to do everything “right” and “well”, and are used to berating ourselves for doing something “wrong” or “poorly”. However, when we practice mindfulness it is important to do so with a strong undertone of self-compassion and gentleness. Once you try to practice mindfulness you will begin to fully appreciate just how important a nunjudgmental attitude is, as despite our strongest desires and attempts to remain in contact with the present moment, the minds wandering ways continually undermine this, which can lead to a sense of failure. To assist you in remaining nonjudgmental when practicing, please just try to remember, the mind wanders…. that is just what it does…. and all you have to do is notice when the mind wanders and bring your attention back to the present moment. Also remind yourself that every time you notice that your mind has wandered is itself a mindful moment!
“Right now a moment of time is passing by!… We must become that moment”
Paul Cezanne —
Mindfulness can be practiced in both a formal way and an informal way. Formal practice is when you actually set aside a specific time to complete a practice. Formal practices can take many shapes, such as sitting meditation, body scan, or mindful yoga. Below are FREE mp3’s that you can listen to or download, which guide you through a variety of formal practices. You can do these practices as often and whenever you like.
Click here to watch Jon Kabat-Zinn speak about mindfulness and meditation.
Informal practice is more about integrating mindfulness into your daily life. This can be achieved by applying the qualities of mindfulness (i.e. paying attention on purpose, to the present moment, nonjudgmentally) to any situation, such as when eating, exercising, showering, doing household chores, or when connecting with others. Informal practices are about tuning in to any given moment, with a heightened awareness of both your internal experiences (i.e. what you are thinking, feeling, or physically experiencing) and the external environment.
Click here for 9 ways you can make mindfulness a part of your everyday life.
Considering the present moment is all we really have, making a concerted effort to connect in with, and make the most of each moment can have a profound positive impact on our lives. As you go off into your life today, remember that “the past is history, the future is a mystery, but right now is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present”.
If you would like to learn more, or engage in mindfulness based therapy or coaching please contact us today to schedule an appointment. If you would like to learn about our ‘Mindfulness for Life’ course, or register your interest, please click here.
Free Guided Mindfulness MP3’s
- 10 Minute Mindfulness of Breath (right click and ‘save link as’ to download)
- 15 Minute Mindfulness of Breath (right click and ‘save link as’ to download)
- Body Scan (right click and ‘save link as’ to download)
- Breath, Body and Sound (right click and ‘save link as’ to download)
- Mindful Self-Inquiry (right click and ‘save link as’ to download)
- Click herefor an article about the vast benefits that have been associated with mindfulness in research
- Click herefor 9 ways you can make mindfulness a part of your everyday life
A video of John Kabat-Zinn speaking about mindfulness meditation