Mindfulness is defined as paying attention to the present moment, without judgement.
Okay, but what does that actually mean? How do we actually do Mindfulness? What is it about?
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment”
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life”
– Eckhart Tolle
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness”
– Abraham Maslow
Being in the present moment is the essence of Mindfulness.
And being in the present moment is the where we find peace, joy and contentment.
Look around you and find an object. Look at it. Really look at it and try not to think, “Oh that’s xyz.” Simply look at the object without thinking about its features or what it is. If a thought does arise, let it come and go.
Did you try it?
In that moment, you were fully present and observing the object without your thoughts getting in the way. You saw it for what it was without thinking and labelling what you saw.
This is Mindfulness.
How does it help?
When we are not in the present moment, we often find ourselves getting in our own way and feeling depressed, anxious and stressed. These feelings arise when our minds are looking back into the past, or ahead into the possible futures. We are anywhere but in the present moment.
In the present moment nothing is wrong. It all just kind of ‘is’
For example, if you find it hard to sleep, in that moment when you’re struggling to sleep, is that bad? Or is it only bad because you’re thinking about how a lack of sleep is going to affect you the next day?
Granted, not getting enough sleep is not ideal. I need my beauty sleep, and lots of it. However, in that moment where you can’t sleep, what’s the best thing you can do? Get worked up and stressed thinking about how tired you’re going to be the following day? Or be one with the present moment, acknowledging, accepting and being ‘ok’ that you cannot sleep?
Somewhat paradoxically, the latter is more likely to send you back to sleep.
Mindfulness is a skill we can develop to bring ourselves back into the present moment. It can help us better navigate through life and it’s hardship by living in the here and now.
Applying Mindfulness to life: A story
I have a dream about being able to swim with ease in the sea and in mountain lakes.
But I’m not a good swimmer. I never have been. I hate having my head under the water, I don’t like not being able to breathe and my swimming looks like I’m flapping around like a fish out of water.
Given my poor swimming ability and desire to be better, I decided to enrol in a swimming workshop.
I hadn’t done any swimming for 10 months and when I turned up at the workshop, it quickly became apparent that everyone else was so much better at swimming than me.
I had gotten used to being good at things and couldn’t remember the last time I was the least skilled person in the group.
It was pretty humbling.
My ego was kicking and screaming with thoughts like; What am I doing here? I don’t belong here. I’m never going to learn this. This is hopeless. I’m not a swimmer. I want to go home. This water is cold. The chlorine might damage my skin or something. Any and every excuse to not be there was coming out.
I was back to being a beginner and I didn’t like it.
My ego was saying these things because it wanted to protect me. It felt scared that I would look like a fool and be laughed at.
It was all fear.
It was fear of what might happen in the future. That is to say, I was not in the present moment and my mind was living in the future.
At some point during the workshop I started to become aware that I was having these thoughts and feelings.
This was the perfect moment to put Mindfulness into practice – to pay attention to the present moment, without judgement.
To embrace that I was the least skilled person in the group at swimming. To embrace that the water was cold. To accept how I was feeling and the thoughts I was having. All without judgement. Just simply observing and acknowledging that they were there.
And all of a sudden it didn’t matter so much anymore. I was able to move past it all and get on with the reason I was there – to learn how to swim.
That’s Mindfulness in practice.
This is why it’s so powerful. It’s a way of living to help me better navigate through my day and life.
Want to learn about some simple Mindfulness exercises? Here