#1 – What is Mindfulness?
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
When I am asked about mindfulness - I start with the simple explanation that it’s about noticing. Noticing our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and our surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.
In teaching the mind to notice and be present, we are teaching ourselves to live more mindfully — in the present, taking a breath, not beholden to reactive thoughts and feelings — which is particularly helpful when faced with challenging circumstances or difficult situations.
When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than fretting about something said or done in the past, or imagining the future and worrying/stressing out about it. At the end of the day, there is nothing we can do about the past and what’s the point of worrying about something that may, or may not, actually happen.
The monkey mind?
When talking about Mindfulness, I describe the monkey mind. According to Buddhist principles, the “monkey mind” is a term that refers to being unsettled, restless, or confused. ... It is also the part of your brain that becomes easily distracted, so if you want to get anything done in life, your challenge will be to shut down the monkey mind.
For me personally, it’s more than my monkey mind bothering me - it’s my critical inner voice. The voice that tells me I am not good enough, chastising me for something I said…. Or what I didn’t say, and should have. It’s the voice that undermines my confidence, paralyses me from making decisions, it injects multiple layers of fear and triggers anxiety and other negative feelings and responses.
The critical inner voice is made up of a series of negative thoughts and attitudes toward self and others, which is at the core of a person's maladaptive behaviour. It can be conceptualised as the language of a defensive process that is both hostile and cynical.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness is a way of looking at things differently and allows a way for you to relate to all of the experiences in your life which may be causing you to suffer. This, in turn, will allow you to personally transform yourself.
We as humans are constantly looking for ways to solve the causes of our suffering and then discover how we can alleviate it.
Sooner or later you end up asking yourself questions such as: “Why don’t I feel better?”
or “Is there something I can do or something that be prescribed so it makes the pain go
No one wants to be on pills the rest of their life.
As we age (and sometimes throughout your whole life) you can suffer with illness. Sickness, old age and death usually exposes us to pain.
Throughout your life you can struggle emotionally when you are confronted with adverse circumstances. When you don’t get what you want in life, if you suffer from great loss or have to deal with things you don’t want to deal with you are constantly seeking ways to feel better.
Mindfulness is a 2500 year old tradition of Buddhist psychology.
Mindfulness has to be experienced directly. Mindfulness comes from within because it is intuitive and pre-conceptual.
With practice over time you can figure out how to become more and more mindful in your everyday life.
Mindfulness can help even if you are in the middle of significant suffering.
Mindfulness has been compared to a deeply personal journey of discovery. Mindfulness is meant to bring about awareness, attention, and remembering. Awareness means becoming aware and fully enjoying and appreciating the things around you no matter how small it is.
When you are attentive, it means that you are participating in focused awareness. That means that you are aware of what is occurring within and around you. When you participate in this “awareness” you can begin to free yourself from mental preoccupation and difficult emotions.
The true purpose of mindfulness is to rid yourself of needless suffering. How do you do this?
You do this by becoming aware and cultivating insights into how your mind works and the meaning of everything in the material world we live in. You are looking for ways to calm your mind and bring peace to your world.
Through Mindfulness you are re-training your mind in order to manage it. Mindfulness allows you to develop other mental qualities including concentration, loving/kindness, effort and becoming more alert.
Mindfulness is not an end-all or doorway to happiness but it can provide you with the foundation you need to build those skills.
By allowing yourself to get rid of habits in your mind that can cause you unhappiness the result will be letting go of anger, envy, greed or other harmful behaviours that serve no purpose.
Mindfulness brings about self-acceptance and self understanding.
We bring upon ourselves unwanted emotional and behavioural problems simply by trying to avoid discomfort and throwing ourselves into some other sort of change-seeking activity.
Mindfulness is about awareness and acceptance first and changes second. Yet no matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling. If you want to know what mindfulness is, it’s best to try it for a while.
If you’d like to learn about mindfulness, I run two courses - both are taught 1-2-1:
An Introduction to Mindfulness
The 8 Pillars of Mindfulness and Positive Psychology (8 module course)
I also have a very active Facebook community with over 2000 followers. You are welcome to join me on a journey of discovery.