What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the act of maintaining moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, the sensations your body experiences, as well as, your surroundings. It involves being non-judgmental of each experience that you observe. From this perspective there is no morality, no “right” or “wrong”.
The practice comes from the fundamentals of Buddhist meditation. Though, it can be practiced during daily life away from being in a meditative state.
Since 1979 a secularized version of mindfulness was used in Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), that was launched at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
What’s the purpose of mindfulness?
The purpose of mindfulness is to heighten your sense of awareness of yourself. This way you learn to see yourself from a perspective an outside view. You see in yourself as another person may experience you. The notion is that when you learn to see yourself more clearly you can learn how to deal with your thoughts, feelings and behaviors in a way that is proactive and beneficial for what you truly desire.
Mindfulness training teaches you:
- How to notice what you’re experience in a given moment. Being in a mindful state is like observing an object under a microscope. You don’t just see it you see it’s particles.
- Be aware of your sensations and your breathing, and how not to react to negative emotions.
- Recognize your thoughts and how they create your emotional experience. Learn that your thoughts and feelings change and are not based in reality.
- Get more joy out of life by being hyper-focused on the experience of life.
A quick exercise in mindfulness:
An easy way to understand mindfulness is to take 5 minutes to do this quick exercise.
- Prepare a small segment of orange. If you don’t have an orange you can use a different piece of fruit, or a small piece of food (like chocolate).
- Set a 5 minute timer.
- Sit in a quiet place with little distractions.
- From the moment you start the timer you will spend 5 minutes examining the orange (or piece of food). Look at it as if you are looking at it under a microscope. Observe the texture of it’s peel. Observe it’s pulp. Observe the color. Smell the orange. Now put the orange in your mouth. Feel the way it feels. Take a bite. Taste it but don’t indulge in the flavor. Mindfulness is about observing how something is without judgement. If you have thoughts about how good it tastes acknowledge your thoughts and bring your awareness back to the orange. Experience the orange for the entire 5 minutes.
Spending 5 minutes observing an orange may seem silly. The point is to learn how to refine your awareness. It’s also to learn to accept how things are, to accept reality without judging it.
Mindfulness practice helps you to understand why you do the things you do. When you understand that you are doing something, or what thoughts are involved in making you behave in ways you don’t want to, you can learn to choose new ways of handling situations.
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