True mind·ful·ness is a mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. True mindfulness is characterised mainly by acceptance of our thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong. True mindfulness focuses our mind on what is being sensed moment-by-moment, rather than ruminating on the past or the future. The ‘ful’ in mindfulness means being fully present.
My all time favourite definition is from 2009 when I trained to be an ACT Therapist with Dr Russ Harris [writer of The Happiness Trap (which I highly recommend)]:
“Mindfulness is a transformative mental state of awareness which involves focusing our attention with flexibility, openness, and curiosity.”
This simple definition tells us three important things:
- mindfulness is a process of awareness, not thinking. It involves paying attention to our experience in this moment as opposed to being caught up in thoughts. In a mindful state, we can let difficult thoughts and feelings freely flow through us, without getting all caught up in them or pushed around by them, and without getting into a struggle with them.
- mindfulness involves a particular attitude: one of openness and curiosity. Even if our experience in this moment is difficult, painful or unpleasant, we can be open to and curious about it instead of running from, fighting with or trying to avoid it. [eg: with alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal)]
- mindfulness involves flexibility of attention: the ability to consciously direct, broaden or focus attention on different aspects of experience. We can use mindfulness to ‘wake up,’ connect with ourselves and appreciate the fullness of each moment of life. We can use it to improve our self-knowledge – to learn more about how we feel, think and react. We can use it to connect deeply and intimately with the people we care about, including ourselves. And we can use it to consciously influence our own behaviour and increase our range of responses to the world we inhabit. It is the actions of living consciously – a profound way to enhance psychological resilience and increase life satisfaction.
Why not make up your own definition of mindfulness? My definition changes all the time, yours will too! Here is a couple of examples: Mindfulness is the defused, accepting, non-judgemental contact with the here and now. Mindful practice is pausing with awareness throughout the day and connecting to life and beyond with calm presence. Being mindful helps us to reflect on the mind from a different perspective, to make choice and change possible. Put simply, mindfulness is bringing awareness to the present moment with kindness!
Get started with a true mindful practice. Several times a day is best, especially when you notice that your mind is far away or notice your inner voice being negative or unhelpful. It’s not something that you make time for, it only takes a few seconds to Be Mindful… Pause… and Connect!
Yours in Awareness Always! – John Shearer MM