Mindfulness is misunderstood. Some people think it is a fad that started around 2015. Others think it is the solution to leading a happier life. Some only see it as a stress relief technique. People can often think it is complicated; it’s not.
Mindfulness is a state of mind where we create ‘space’ to observe what we are experiencing without judging it.
Most of the time, we are not fully alert of what is going on inside us or around us. We spend time mindlessly. Mindlessness means going through the motions, not really being aware of how we feel, what we think or why we think it. We can be unaware of what is happening, not paying attention to it and not questioning it. We can float through the soup of life with our eyes closed.
Or we could be going through life and aware of what is happening, but not accepting it. We could be able to observe what we are experiencing, but we could be judging it, deciding if it is favourable to us or not; determining if we like it or not. Judgement is not acceptance. Then, based on this judgement we have made, we could be reacting to it. We could be letting it make us sad, happy, angry etc., and then behaving accordingly. A reaction is not ‘acceptance’ either. So, in this second case, we are aware but we are not accepting.
Mindfulness means being two things at the one time – aware and accepting. We are aware of our reality and we accept it – this is what the practice of mindfulness is about in its simplest form.
Practising mindfulness is about cultivating the ability to be aware and accepting of what is happening, in the present moment. Over time, practice builds the habit. It is not about becoming a perfect person (that would be a judgement!) though the chances are that you’ll find you are more aware of yourself and your feelings on a daily basis. Acceptance can be slower to come, especially if there are things in your life that you want to change.
Benefits and objectives are different things. You may reap other benefits (more on them in another article) by practising mindfulness, but they are not your goal because as soon as they become something that you are aiming for, you will judge if you have achieved your goal or not. You will be judging, not accepting. It is a bit of a paradox that aiming for the goal… takes you away from achieving the goal.
Just keep it beautifully simple
Just keep it simple. Be aware of your breath moving in and out. When your thoughts wander, which they will always do, notice that and accept it and gently bring your attention back to your breath. The next time your thoughts wander, notice it and bring your attention back to your breath again. And so on. Being aware. Accepting. Simple.