What is Mindfulness and What is all the Hype About?
Mindfulness is: paying attention, on purpose, to your experience in the present moment, without judgment.
We start out living life in the present –as infants we feel happy or hungry or uncomfortable and we communicate these states in real time. But, as we mature, we train ourselves out of this way of living. Although we actually live in real time we become masters at burying the messages of our real time experiences because they are inconvenient or deemed inappropriate - we develope priorities and hierarchies, distractions and responsibilities that override this real time information. We learn to live detached from our present moment experiences.
Why might being Mindful be important?
Being mindful makes you more aware and alert to the messages of your physical self because the body lives in real time. Mindfulness allows you to see more objectively the patterns and habits of your mind (thinking) and, you can tune into information available from your emotions. In short, life experiences become enriched when you experience them in real time. In fact you become enriched and empowered because when you are mindful you can make choices and decisions based on what is real rather than based on the mental constructs we create. This doesn’t mean that we don’t have priorities and responsibilities that guide how we spend our time and what we do. It’s just that those priorities and guidelines are not there by default – their appropriateness and relevance are continually evaluated allowing us to live consciously rather than living on auto-pilot. Things like emotional regulation and meeting our own needs become possible.
The present is where life is actually happening!
The present moment is the only time in our lives that we can actually influence directly. CS Lewis the famous author of the Narnia series (among his other prolific writings) says, “The Past is frozen and no longer flows, but the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.” This moment is where life is actually lived. It is where change and growth happen. Be here! Now! It is the only real place.
Paying attention is a Skill!
So, we are born in a mindful state and then we train ourselves out of mindfulness and into an increasingly blurred version of reality. A reality in which we have decided to live according to the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts ‘ we have made up - rules of right/wrong/, useful/ wasteful that we and society have created. This binary existence is not ‘bad’ but it moves our focus out so that when we live rigidly according to judgment rather than mindfully according to our needs we often end up missing the richness of life. We easily miss moments of connection, beauty or insight because we are rushing forward in life to our ‘next thing’. Mindfulness helps bring back the focus of our lived experiences by keeping our awareness in real time. MindLESSness hurries. MindFULLness pauses. MindLESSness pushes. MindFULLness invites.
The good news is that we CAN relearn and practice pausing and inviting. Practice improves this skill of paying attention.
Practicing Mindfulness is called Meditation
Meditation is simply choosing to be mindful for a period of time, whether that's 3 minutes or an hour. Meditation is choosing to practice 'paying attention' instead of doing something else...... like folding laundry or watching TV or taking a shower.
The Three Skills of Mindfulness
What exactly are you practicing while you are meditating? There are 3 essential skills to being Mindful:
First there is Concentration – you want to be able to pay attention to what you choose to pay attention to!
Next is Open Awareness – the ability to simply observe your inner experience: thoughts, emotions and body sensations.
And finally, you want to be able to do all this with an attitude of acceptance. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of our inner experience, and to meet it all with Kindness.
Mindfulness takes practice, because although it is simple, it is not easy. And make no mistake: simple does not make it a ‘soft art’. It is not ‘touchy-feely’. It is often very hard work to be present with fear and loss. It takes courage and skill to show up in reality.
But the pay-off is tremendous!
What are you waiting for?
The place to begin is exactly where you are. Today. Right now. Go ahead, pause and be aware.
If you’d like to try a guided meditation or take a course in basic mindfulness training please go to the Offerings tab.