Mindfulness and the ability to be mindful is on everyone’s lips at the moment. The number of books on the topic is expanding, some schools are including basic mindfulness in their busy curriculums, as are some work places, and mindfulness colouring books are everywhere.
So…what is It?
One definition of Mindfulness that has stuck with me comes from Jon Kabat-Zinn (Adventures in Mindfulness, 2012):
“Mindfulness is paying attention in the present moment as if your life depended on it without judgement”
Quite a mouthful but it packs a punch
Paying attention is being aware of what is going on. This includes what is going on around you as well as what is going on inside you. Being aware of how many people are sharing your tram, what your favourite breakfast cereal tastes like, or the sounds of the birds outside your window are all everyday examples of what you can pay attention to in the world around you. Things we can notice within us include thoughts like “that went well” “nice one” or “not my best moment” and sensations such as butterflies in the tummy, tension in your shoulders, or the lightness of joy.
We can even pay attention to what we notice. For example, I can notice that my awareness goes there, then its there, now its over there…simply logging and going with the flow of noticing what you are paying attention to. Because there is so much to notice every moment of every day there is much we don’t pay attention to as well.
Paying attention is a skill we can build…
In the present moment you can answer the question: What is actually happening right now?
For instance: How warm is the sun…on that day at that point in time…not an estimation or a guess… what does the sun actually feel like at that single moment…it may be different in the next moment or in half an hour so simply stopping to notice what it is like right now
The present moment is also the doing moment … it is the moment we can…throw and kick and run, write a report or recite a fact…. and when you stack a number of present moments together…the journey starts to unfold…and a desired goal can come closer.
You can have some fun focusing in and out of the present moment while watching a video, reading a book, or listening to your favourite music…when you notice you’ve missed a bit, well that’s out and when you hear or see what’s there…well that’s in.
As if your life depended on it…
In days gone by the ability of humans to be aware of their surrounding environment did have a life and death impact…awareness of dangerous animals, extreme weather changes, knowing when food was available, were all very important. In some parts of the world today life can still depend on attention to environment…but in much of the western world this is less the case.
So when you practice Mindfulness…stop, be deliberate about what you are doing, almost as if you are drawing a circle around the time…For example…I’m watching a two hour movie but for five minutes, I am going to zoom in and really focus and absorb what is going on…then I’ll just go back to watching it…
For many of us starting out on the Mindfulness journey it makes it easier to practice “as if your life depended on it“ if you designate a calm, comfortable space in which to practice at a time of day you are less likely to be interrupted.
Invariably as you notice things, you will also notice that your mind is a pretty chatty entity that likes to evaluate everything…
“It’s too hot or too cold”,
“I don’t like that or I do like that…a lot,
“that’s not good”
This can get in the way of noticing what is happening…for example you might have noticed that when you call things good…you’re drawn to them and when you label things bad you tend to avoid them…either way it impacts or loads up the effort of simply noticing…something, anything…
So being Mindful is logging data, any data—one piece at a time
“…the table has four legs, the sea is blue today with white caps, I’m having thoughts about plans for tomorrow, the game is divided into quarters…”
A little Mindfulness Practice…3-5 minutes a day
1. Find a space for your practice that is easy to access each day
2. Bring something you can look at like a comic, magazine, photos, picture book, cookbook
3. Sit upright with feet on the floor and jiggle a little to get comfy
4. Have a look and notice a detail on the page…a colour, a feature, a word…take your time
there is no hurry…soak and savour
5. When you have noticed something, see what else is there and notice that
6. Allow say 60 seconds for each page…so you will look at between three and five pages
7. When you notice you have been distracted and no longer looking … be aware of that … that’s
what is happening, that’s what I’m thinking about…if there is judgement about the distraction
…notice that … then, if there is time left, re-focus on the page and just notice something else
8. If you prefer, trade looking for any of the other senses…listen to the sounds in the garden or
taste your favourite food (like a strawberry perhaps), or notice what it feels like to shower or focus on the scent
of a candle
9. Its all about repetition…so have some fun with Mindfulness so that you’re happy to come
back to it again and again…and before you know it…it will be part of day