What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and 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. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.
Though it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, a secular practice of mindfulness has entered the American mainstream in recent years,
The science is clear: practicing mindfulness is good for you. Just as you can exercise the body for better performance, the mind too can be trained, honed and sharpened. Mindfulness has been shown to break negative thought patterns, reduce, stress and anxiety, and sharpens focus.
You can use any activity or event in your day as mindfulness cues.
Here's the interesting thing: Your thoughts can also become part of your mindfulness practice. When I became more mindful, I started to notice the constant stream of thoughts, the constant negative inner chatter. Including the preoccupation with “failure” and doing things “correctly.” Now, after many years of practice, I am better about noticing these thoughts as simply that—thoughts. I can have more space between my thoughts and see the situation more clearly, with a bit more objectivity.
Simple mindfulness practices
1. Mindful walking.
When you get up from your desk to go to the bathroom, talk to a colleague or get a cup of coffee, rather than mindlessly walking, trapped in your thoughts, bring your attention to the physical movement of talking. Notice your feet on the floor, the weight of your body shifting from one leg to the other. Feel your arms swing. Notice the temperature in the room. Pay attention to whatever your senses can notice.
2. Mindful eating.
How often do you sit down to eat, completely distracted? Perhaps you're checking your email, Twitter or Facebook, or just spaced out.Try this: when eating, simply eat. No digital device, book, newspaper, etc. Try eating alone. Pay attention to what you're eating, the sensory experiences—taste, smell and texture. Notice the color of the food. You can even spend a moment being grateful for the food you're consuming.
3. Mindful speaking & listening.
One unexpected benefit of mindfulness is that I've become a better listener. Rather than thinking of my response (or rebuttal), simply listening, fully and noticing my own internal dialogue has been an interesting experiment. I find that I am much better able to see the other person's perspective and be more thoughtful in my response. I can also create more spaciousness in the conversation because I'm not rushing or waiting to add my two cents.
Listening is perhaps one of the most valuable gifts we can offer to others. Offer it generously whenever possible and bring your best intentions. Especially in bitterly heated negotiations, or contentious situations, I've found that bringing a mindful attitude leaves everyone feeling heard and tends to de-escalate charged emotions.
4. Practice yoga.
It's rather unfortunate that yoga as it's often practiced is simply seen as “exercise.” The practice of yoga is much more than that. It's the perfect place to practice mindfulness. During your next yoga class, really bring all of your awareness to what is happening. I like to start each yoga practice by taking a minute or so to simply notice the sensation of my feet on the yoga mat.
What are your favorite mindfulness practices? Let me know!