What is Mindfulness?

Jul 03, 2020

“What is mindfulness?” Asked my friend the other day. 

Let me show you what mindfulness is for me.

Mindfulness is noticing the very welcome winter sun warming my back on my Sunday walk. 

Mindfulness is noticing how cold my fingers are compared to my back.

Mindfulness is listening attentively as my daughter fleshes out the details of her holiday fantasies of cruises and crazy adventures. 

Mindfulness is noticing when my thoughts interrupt and want to drag my attention away to the things I need to do this afternoon; letting it go and bringing my attention back to my daughter. 

Mindfulness is noticing how deliciously sweet and silky that hot chocolate tastes as I wrap my cold fingers round the hot mug, face still glowing from the walk. 

Mindfulness is watching my eldest daughter destroys the 4 tier kinesthetic sand castle my youngest daughter has carefully constructed and seeing them both flick sand all over the rug and noticing just in time how dangerously close I am to losing it and shouting angrily. 

Mindfulness is noticing how tight my tummy muscles are and how my eyes just narrowed upon accidentally hearing that news headline as my youngest daughter experiments and discovers one of the things Alexa -her Christmas present from her Uncle- can do. 

Mindfulness is noticing how that news headline triggers a cascade of worrying thoughts about next year, about whether my children will actually be able to go back to school, to the teachers and the friends they so love. 

Mindfulness is choosing to let go of that thought and deliberately reach for a happier thought instead...to think about how lovely it was to do the washing up last night not on my own as usual but as a team, one washing, one rinsing, one drying, all telling jokes. 

Mindfulness is not just meditation. 

Mindfulness is training your mind, your attention, to be present, aware of what is happening, what you are doing, how you are feeling and what you are thinking, with curiosity and without judgement. 

Mindfulness is practicing coming out of the thought stream and into sensory reality, into the here and now, something very beneficial for your brain. This is so important because where you place your attention can have a profound effect on your mental health.

Mindfulness gives you more control over your attention; it allows you to bring choice into how your attention is focused; your attention is no longer continuously grabbed by every or external distraction or thought.

Overthinking and mind wandering can, not surprisingly, lead to depression, anxiety and serious stress.

Our thoughts influence our emotions in a big way but normally we are too distracted or too busy to notice what is really going on and make the connection. 

Mindfulness practice allows us to start to develop a whole new level of self-knowledge and become aware of the recurrent thoughts and emotions that are stealing our happiness, focus and inner peace. 

Think about the ocean in a storm; Your mind is normally so full of thoughts and the emotions they provoke that it is like being in the middle of a storm. But below the surface of the sea at the bottom of the ocean is calm. 

When we practice mindfulness it’s like the waves of our mind settle enough for us to see more clearly what is going on beneath the surface. It gives you the ability to sail the stormy seas of change and find the calmness below the waves on the surface. 

Mindfulness also increases empathy, resilience, concentration, memory and immune function and allows you to simply enjoy your life more, by spending more time being present.

It has famously been said, that if we teach mindfulness to all 8-year-olds we can eliminate violence in one generation.

Mindfulness is a life skill that is making people kinder to themselves and others, calmer and more present in the here and now. 

If there is one thing that is certain right now it is that nobody knows what the future holds, how and when this pandemic will end. 

That is why we need to plan for the future but live in the present. 

That is why we need to spend some time each day practicing letting go of the story that is constantly running in our heads and embrace the direct experience of life, as it is unfolding. 

That is where you will find happiness. 

That is where you will find peace.