What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is known as the Art of Choice – deliberately engaging with the mind and making conscious choices from moment to moment. Think of mindfulness as a form of mental fitness.
How do I practice?
If Mindfulness is fitness, mindful meditation is the exercise. The practice involves guiding attention on purpose and maintaining awareness in a specific way.
What are the benefits?
Being mindful means making wise decisions from moment to moment. Rather than being driven by impulses, judgments, fears, desires, etc. (i.e. being mindless). Mindfulness is a skillful, purposeful way of being.
Benefits of mindfulness
Focus, concentration, paying attention… these terms refer to intentional conscious perception. Think of attention as a currency just like money. We “pay” attention just like we’d pay someone in dollars. Something grabs our attention, we focus on it for a moment, and then the moment is spent. But what we pay attention to makes up our entire experience in those moments. So how do we want to pay our attention and spend our time?
Moments turn into hours, hours turn into days, and days turn into years. Before we know it, these small moments add up and we wonder how it flew by so fast. Were we just “impulse-buying” the whole time?
“Time may change me, but I can’t change time.” – David Bowie (Mandela effect on those lyrics perhaps – are you paying attention?)
We can’t change time; the present moment is all we get. But we CAN change what we do with our attention in the time we have.
The quality of our experience depends on how we use our attention in these moments. And again, moments turn into hours… hours turn into days… do the math, you’ll see the quality of our LIFE depends on how we spend it in the present moment.
Awareness is the quality of our attention and perception. We are aware of what we pay attention to and thus what we perceive. Mindfulness teaches us how to pay attention purposefully which leads to a different quality of perception; a different quality of experience.
Instead of being pulled around by impulses, being thrown into a terrible mood, getting ‘hangry’, or having our whole day ruined by one moment, we learn to pause, zoom out, observe, and most importantly: Choose how to respond.
Most of our thoughts and behaviors are driven by unconscious and subconscious processes. But with Mindfulness, we can bridge the gap and bring more conscious awareness to how we think and what we do.
It’s only with increased awareness of this ability that we become more capable of responding rather than reacting mindlessly. We can choose to shift our perspective and see each moment a bit more clearly, with a bit more context.
The practice of mindfully improving attention and awareness helps us self-reflect and self-regulate so we don’t make unnecessary mistakes and cause needless suffering.
Relationships are perhaps the most important part of life. Not just romantic relationships, but how we relate in general. The way we relate to our thoughts, our behavior patterns, our work, our past, and how we relate to others – relatives, kids, parents, co-workers, friends, foes, and even people we don’t know – all these relationships matter.
This is where Mindfulness really proves its value. When we direct non-judgmental attention towards our own thoughts, we become aware that our thoughts tend to influence our mood and our behavior. And as we know, our behavior influences the quality of every experience and every relationship we have in life.
Actions have consequences. What we do ripples out into the world, for better or for worse. When we’re more mindful of what drives us, we make more wise decisions, and the consequences are more favorable for us and for the people we love.
It all starts with observing the behavior of the mind. Meditation is a great exercise because we can just watch and notice what the mind is doing. This increases familiarity, and thus creates more self-awareness. It’s really that simple, and just like after a good workout, it’s incredibly refreshing.
Try it and see what it does for your relationships!
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Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book is substantive, informative, detailed, and thorough. It is a must if you’re interested in the technical, therapeutic benefits of Mindfulness.
Aion: Researches Into the Phenomenology of the Self by Carl Jung. This one can be a tough read without a background in Psychology but either way, it’s fascinating and insightful.
Waking Up Mobile App by Sam Harris: a Philosopher, Neuroscientist, best selling author, and an excellent Mindfulness instructor. He has practiced & studied meditation for over 30 years with many Eastern, and Western meditation teachers. I highly recommend his app – it is very informative and has influenced how I think about and teach mindfulness in Mind Awake.
Understanding Our Mind By Thich Nhat Hanh. I had to read this in college while majoring in Psychology. He is a global spiritual leader, peace activist, and pioneer in bringing Mindfulness to the West. This is a beautiful work of his indeed.
Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book is much simpler, perhaps more practical, yet definitely as insightful as Full Catastrophe Living, which can feel a bit too technical at times. If you want to check out both, I recommend reading this one first.
Mindfulness-Based Therapy for Insomnia by Jason Ong. Dr. Ong provides a nice instructional outline for mapping mindfulness onto Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I), the leading behavioral treatment for Insomnia. This book hit close to home for me as I work in a Sleep Medicine clinic and am passionate about Mindfulness. Check it out!