First, let’s start with a definition of what mindfulness is before I provide some examples of mindfulness practice and also why we do it.
So, what is mindfulness anyway?
Mindfulness is about being aware, having a conscious awareness in the moment.
I don’t get it. What do you mean conscious awareness?
To elaborate further, conscious awareness is about being present here and now and being consciously aware of thoughts, feelings and sensations in the body.
Usually people move towards meditation or mindfulness due to being stressed, unhappy on some level or to improve something in their lives – even if unconsciously.
We practice mindfulness because most of us lack presence in our lives and this causes suffering and subsequently a lack of joy and we move through life just existing with a general sense of unease without knowing why. Essentially we are disconnected from ourselves.
So, we practice mindfulness because we suffer or we just feel not quite right. Although what I am about to say is controversial I’ll say it anyway – our suffering is often self-generated through thinking about the past, the future and often our current life situation.
Becoming consciously aware of and/or recognising our thoughts, feelings and sensations in the body helps us connect with ourselves at a deeper level, beyond our thoughts, helps us become present (i.e. where we are free of thoughts of past and future that creates pain) and consequently we can experience a deeper joy and connection with ourselves and life including others.
There are techniques available that help us to become more aware and conscious and this is where practising mindfulness comes in.
We can be mindful whilst meditating but also as we go about our everyday tasks. Let’s start with meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness
For example, when we meditate, we essentially practice mindfulness because we focus internally.
Through meditating we become acutely aware of our thoughts, feelings (I mean emotions here) and sensations in the body. This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness helps us to become keenly aware of what is actually going on inside us (don’t be scared off by this either), how little notice we have actually taken of what’s going on inside and how detached we have become from ourselves and finally how lacking in presence we are (where joy and peace lies by the way). Our focus is often on the external and getting there (the future) or thinking about the past.
It’s not a bad thing to have these realisations though and the fact that you have googled mindfulness practice means conscious awareness is emerging.
So, ok, now that I am aware of my thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations – then what?
The idea during mindfulness is not to identify with the thoughts, feelings and sensations.
This means don’t feed your thoughts, we don’t engage with them because thoughts snowball and take us away from presence e.g. we think about the past and the future or we have a huge story behind our emotions or our bodily sensations.
There are sensations within the body that are our aliveness (and to notice these is fantastic – most of us can’t feel this until we start to direct our attention to the inner body on a regular basis) and then there are other bodily sensations that we identify with and have stories about e.g. an injury for example or the result of ageing or whatever your story might be.
But rather than get caught up in our stories we simply notice them, watch them. We are mindful. We don’t try to push them away or resist them as this just creates more of the same and with greater force.
Why be mindful and notice these things? Because it helps us to transcend the level of form (that is thought forms) and to awaken to the truth of life and to who we truly are beyond our thoughts and conditioning.
What about going about my everyday business, how can I be mindful then?
Everyday tasks and mindfulness
Essentially being mindful during tasks is the same as with being mindful during meditation. That is, when we focus on the task at hand it becomes meditative to an extent.
The idea is to be focused on what we are doing (and only that task without thinking about the end goal or what we are going to do next, where you have to be, where you want to be) without the internal dialogue that often accompanies undertaking a task and subsequently robs us of being fully present and actually experiencing any joy.
It’s in the simple things and everything. Here are some ideas for practising mindfulness:
- When you are eating, just eat. Taste it, feel the texture, listen as you chew and swallow. No need to talk to anyone. No need to read or watch tv. How often have you just scoffed it down, or ate on the run? Just eat. Savour each mouthful.
- When you are drinking. Feel the cup/glass, raise it to your lips, feel the warmth, coolness, liquid running down your throat, the taste.
- Washing the dishes. Again, just wash the dishes. Don’t think about the fact you might have to dry them after and you don’t want to. Don’t think about what you have to do next or where you need to be ‘next’. Just be present and wash the dishes.
- Brushing your teeth. As above. Just be right there. Notice as you pick up the toothpaste, unscrew the cap, pick up the toothbrush, put the toothpaste on etc. Focus on each movement.
- Walking to or from work or anywhere. Notice your body as you walk. Feel your inner body. Notice the sounds as you place each foot down.
- Waiting for an elevator. Just wait. Breathe and notice what’s going on inside.
- Talking to people. Just be present, that also means always focusing a little on yourself internally whilst conversing. I don’t mean don’t listen to the other person here. I mean just be aware of what’s going on internally for you as you listen. Watch what happens with your thoughts or emotions etc.
Don’t be in a rush to interrupt or formulate any questions or comments in your mind, just listen and be aware of what’s going on for you but ‘be where you are’. Of course, you can offer up your thoughts (after all conversation implies at least two people interacting) but just try not to lose your presence. At the end of the day most people just want to be heard.
As with mindfulness and meditation above, just notice and watch thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations that arise and let them go. Don’t attach to them.
Experience the joy of living through being exactly where you are
To sum up, ordinarily we go through our day having no conscious awareness of how busy our minds are, constantly racing with often repetitive thoughts, thinking about the next thing before we’ve finished this or that thing and not really being present in conversations.
Why? Because generally we want to get our point across or we have a question formulated in our minds before the person we are talking to has even finished speaking.
We are very rarely just present, so being mindful helps us to be present and experience the joy of life (even if we are doing something we don’t like or find boring).
The idea with mindfulness is to hold a certain level of awareness and presence as we move through our day. So, it’s not just about being mindful whilst we meditate. Meditation however can help us along the way to really notice our thoughts because we are still and quiet as we meditate and there is less external interference.
Our lives, experiences, interactions and connection with others as a result of practising mindfulness can be so much better and it is in this way that we truly live.
To go deep within through mindfulness and to transcend our thoughts is where we awaken to who we really are and experience the joy of living by being exactly where we are right now.
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- Top 5 Affordable Mindfulness Meditation Online Course Picks
- Discounted Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Online Course
- Best Value for Money Guided Meditations
I hope you have enjoyed this article and it has been of some help.
Please email me or comment below if you have any questions or feedback. It’s always appreciated.
Go forth with ease and just be.