Mindfulness is quite a buzzterm these days, in many circles of social, corporate and other walks of life. So what is it, anyways, and how is it relevant and useful for you?
A definition I like for mindfulness is: Moment by moment attention, not too tight, not too loose, without judgment. Simply put, it’s the ability to stay present to your direct experience, without labeling it as “good” or “bad.”
You can cultivate mindfulness through a variety of practices, from noticing what you’re doing as you wash your dishes, to sitting meditation practice. Practice is the key here: it’s just like going to the gym. In order to cultivate mindfulness, you must be in the habit of noticing what’s going on in your mind, and in your range of inner and outer experience.
It is never too late to start practicing mindfulness: you can do it now, in this moment: what does your breath feel like? In placing your attention there, you have just been “in the moment” and “mindful” of your experience. Your breath is the most simple resource you can use to practice mindfulness: it is always there, it is what links your mind, body, and spirit. Your breath is always available, for as long as you are alive.
A key for mindfulness practice is not labeling your experience. Many if not most of us are trained from a very young age to percieve phenomena as “good” or “bad”, “right” or “wrong”. This habit serves us well in decisionmaking, avoiding threat, and ordering our favorite ice cream cone. When it is harmful or causes suffering is when we believe our filtered assessments to have some fundamental truth: they do not.
Nobody, no thing, no animal, no phenomena is good or bad in an absolute sense. We make it to be that way in our own minds. Right or wrong is a product of our minds. When these judgements cause separation from ourselves with others (“I don’t like him because he is bad” eg) we are in trouble. Mindfulness practice can help you attune to when you are labeling or making judgments. Then, you can be at choice as to whether or not this assessment is serving you or this other person(s) or being(s) in this moment.
Mindfulness practice has made a profound difference in my life. It has helped me live in the present and ruminate less about the past or be less anxious about the future. It has also helped me be a more skillful decisionmaker. I am generally more calm under pressure. I identify old thought and behavior patterns more quickly in order to choose how I want to proceed, rather than being unconsciously swept away by habit or reactive pattern.
Most importantly, mindfulness has helped me develop compassion for myself and for others, which serves both me and the people of my life infinitely – in personal, corporate, social and all other aspects of my world.
I strongly believe this is all possible for you. If you are interested in more on this topic, there are a litany of sources to read or view. For example, check out the teachings of Jack Kornfeld, Sharon Salzberg, Chade Meng Tan (of Google), Chogyam Trungpa, or Jon Kabat-Zinn.
You can also contact me if you are curious about the possibilites of cultivating a mindfulness practice in your life. The present moment, your inner wisdom, and your inherent compassion are always available for you, and I would like to help you experience them.