“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake.”
In my last blog I spoke about being mindful, and I stated, “mindfulness cannot be fully explained in words, as it needs to be experienced to be known.”
Even the quotation above does not explain in a tangible sense what we mean by mindfulness, the concept is difficult to grasp. One way to help is to explain what it is not; and here are some examples of not being mindful: MINDLESS is a perfect acronym….
Multitasking – you cannot concentrate on anything properly when you attend to so many things the same time.
Inattentiveness and inattention often leads to breaking or spilling things, or simply just not getting them right.
Neglecting yourself, disregarding or failing to notice subtle tensions or discomfort in your body, which can lead to illness.
Daydreaming or fantasising about what could be, finding yourself in the past or in the future, thus not appreciating the present.
Leaving things until the last minute, delaying important priorities – procrastinating.
Elusion – the answer eludes me! Like forgetting someone’s name as soon as you’ve heard it.
Speeding – rushing through activities without being attentive to what is happening, not appreciating anything around you.
Snacking before you’re hungry, often not realising that you’re actually eating unhealthily.
Half the journey is to know what it is and what it is not, completing the journey is about the experience and in my last article you’ll have read the simple steps I outlined to become more mindful; but what about the experience, how do you know you’ve achieved a state of mindfulness? Here are some pointers on what mindful moments are:
Non-judgmental – awareness cannot occur if we are labelling thoughts, people or actions.
Present – mindfulness always happens HERE and NOW; absorption in thoughts takes us away from being mindful.
Non-conceptual – mindfulness is intuitive awareness, disentangled from thought processes.
Nonverbal – the experience of mindfulness cannot be expressed in words as the awareness of the experience occurs before words arise in the mind.
Liberating – every moment away from thoughts takes us closer to the present moment which creates space and freedom, closer to health and away from conditioned suffering or discomfort.
It’s about an expansion of your mind to accept things as they are without applying preconceived notions or fantasizing about what they could be. It’s a type of freedom which allows you to accept the things you cannot change, to change the things you cannot accept, and the wisdom to know the difference (adapted from Reinhold Niebuhr’s original Serenity Prayer).
And the benefits of being mindful are that it:
Improves our ability to manage stress and anxiety.
Improves our social skills.
Makes us more successful by opening our minds to new possibilities.
Helps us to remove discomfort.
Helps us to remove suffering as we distance ourselves from thoughts that make us suffer.
In my view mindfulness is best summarised by James Baraz:
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different; enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will); being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”