What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment on purpose with kindness and curiosity.
Mindfulness is a non-religious, non-dogmatic practice with roots that can be tied to Eastern contemplative practice. Today, mindfulness is practiced by people all around the world, with many diverse languages, cultures, and spiritual beliefs.
The work of any mindfulness practice is to bring our attention to the present moment. While the mind is a great time-traveller, planning a project or remembering the birth of a child or the grocery list, the body is only ever right where it is. So, when we practice coming home to the present moment, we use the body as an anchor to what is really happening right here, right now.
In this moment …
Can you feel the sensation of the soles of your feet?
Can you notice the feeling in your chest?
Can you notice your breathing?
By coming home to the body and the senses, we cultivate an awareness of life as we live it, moment to moment. This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness has both formal and informal practices.
When we practice mindfulness formally, we take time apart from the rush of our day to stop for a set amount of time and to pay attention. Formal mindfulness meditation practices include guided and unguided meditation, breathing exercises, body scans, mindful movement, mindful walking, and mindful eating. These formal practices are where we really build the muscle of focused attention and compassionate insight. (We’ll share more about how below.)
Mindfulness can also be practiced informally, amidst the rush and whirl of our days. We
practice mindfulness informally when we take a deep breath before seeing a client or changing a diaper, when we simply become aware of the sensation of walking on earth or flooring or pavement, when we can notice the color and taste of our lunch, when we pay close attention as we fold the laundry, and when we can take a moment to look into the eyes of a loved one at the end of a hectic day. These moments of mindfulness are important as well. While we may not be wearing special clothing, or sitting peacefully on a mountain top, we are still practicing present moment awareness through the demands of a normal day. Informal practice can be an extraordinary way to bring more depth and pleasure to repetitive tasks and as a resource for times when life gets particularly tough.
Can I take a breath when I realize that I’ve made a mistake? Can I notice the sensations in my stomach when I say “yes” to something when really I want to say “no”? These moments of mindfulness cultivate a stronger relationship with ourselves, our bodies, and our own knowing.
DOWNLOAD THE CALM APP
Calm is free to download and includes a collection of meditations, Sleep Stories, mindfulness tools, nature scenes and music for focus, relaxation and sleep.