This post discusses a brief overview on mindfulness and meditation.
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
My definition of mindfulness is that it is a calm & peaceful effort to be uninterruptedly present with whatever you are experiencing. Mindfulness is not a technique. Mindfulness is to awaken intentionally to the moment that you are living.
One of the first things we must take into consideration is that mindfulness is an intentional act, you are mindful “on purpose”. Being mindful is not simply being “aware”, though many people use the word mindful and aware as though they mean the same thing. Awareness is associated with habitual behavior. You can be aware that you have a stressful life, but that does not mean that you are doing anything about it. To be mindful, you must be intentionally awake, not just habitually aware. Having a cup of tea is not the same thing as mindfully sipping tea, fully awake to the smell and experience of the brew.
Tea and meditation have a long history together, so let’s carry on with the above example. Chugging down tea, or any drink for that matter, is a totally unintentional act. To be mindful and awake to the moment, you must intentionally pay attention to what is occurring. What are the qualities regarding the scent of the brew? What is it doing to your mind? Are you stimulated? Are you relaxed? What about your body? Has it made you sweat just slightly? What about around you? Can you hear birds? A breeze? Is it hot? Sunny? Are you in Chinatown with the sound of cars going down the street? Are you listening to the various languages surrounding you?
"There is only one moment that we can truly experience … the present moment … and shockingly it seems to be the one we avoid the most."
Are you present? If you are present you will quickly realize that there are no ordinary moments, amazing things are happening all around you. The trouble is that you need to shut out all of the noise, including your emotions, to truly awaken to being mindful. Detaching from your emotions, which is what Jon Kabat-Zinn is referring to when he says “nonjudgmentally,” is a difficult thing for us to do. A large percentage of people are on medications to make them “more-happy” after all. Not allowing emotions to pass, and to spend time chasing the dragon of “happiness,” may, in fact, stop some people from ever being content. Becoming mindful of your emotions allows you to stand above them. Our lives consist of many changes: happiness and sadness, sunshine and rain, many experiences are needed for people to grow and renew. To be “stuck” in one season would not allow for growth. Being in the moment helps us experience and learn from everything life and the world has to offer us. Mindfulness is a skill, and takes effort, but, it is well worth the sacrifice.
Our minds cycle through an incredible variety of thoughts and emotions. Lust, vengeance, anger, depression, and many other thoughts and sensations can overload us on a daily basis. These same thoughts and feelings are the result of past events that you can do nothing about or future worries that may never happen. Having a prespective like this means you are stuck in the past, worried about the future, or both! Regardless, not being in the present moment takes you away from reality, leaving you trapped in a fantasy. There is only one moment that we can truly experience … the present moment … and shockingly it seems to be the one we avoid the most.
This is what mindfulness teaches us, a way to present in the moment. Right now. The interesting thing about this is that once you become awake to the moment, you have an incredible amount of control over your future. You are not destined to repeat the same emotions and behaviors day in, day out. This is the cycle that many of us get caught in. We have thoughts that trigger memories, and these memories drive us to start having emotional responses. To be fully present, we cannot judge the moment with emotions or past experiences. To be mindful and in-the-moment is to not be thinking about the past or future.
When you are meditating you are gently focusing on the moment you are living, you are not “spaced out”. When you are taken away from “the now” by various distractions, just bring your focus back to the moment. It is truly that simple. The most difficult thing is practicing consistently. Training yourself to become more mindful is just like training the rest of your body. You get better at golfing by practicing. You get better at basketball by practicing. You get better at cooking by practicing. You get better at being awake to the moment you are living in by practicing. By resolutely directing our intentionally focused mind away from distractions (emotions, experiences, anxieties) and to the “anchor” or our current experiences, we reduce their impact on our lives. From this awake-intention, we create a life of freedom where calmness and contentment can grow.