What is Mindfulness?
It is being fully present with whatever we are doing while we are doing it. We do this by learning how to pay attention, without judgment or distortion, to what is happening in the present moment through a variety of exercises.
Mindfulness is based in Eastern philosophy but is not practised, in this context, as part of any spiritual or religious tradition. Mindfulness learnt with The Mindful Consultancy is used as a life skill, to develop strategies for relating skilfully to everyday life and work situations.
Most of the time our attention is divided. For example, we eat our lunch and think about the afternoon ahead or we drive our car and dwell on what happened in the morning. Consequently, our minds are either dwelling in the past or anticipating the future.
This is stressful because it fragments our attention and dissipates our energy. We are pulled in different directions causing mental agitation, tension and anxiety.
The practice of Mindfulness is to focus all of our attention on one thing and to do it properly - when we eat lunch, we just eat lunch.
Life is happening in the present moment. If we are not in the present moment we are living in a world of thought.
We often live our lives on auto-pilot, carrying out routine activities while our minds are jumping around in the past or future like a monkey jumping from tree to tree.
This robs us of the precious experiences of life: we do not connect with the people we love. We see them fleetingly and then drift into the thoughts and issues that are preoccupying us. We eat without really tasting, hear without listening and see without really seeing. We live in a state of unawareness and often miss what is most meaningful in our lives.
When we start practising Mindfulness we realise that we are not in control of our minds – our thoughts are running wild and they are using us, instead of us using them.
Not only are we immersed in a world of thought, but our thoughts and emotions are in conflict with one another. There seem to be different voices in ourselves singing to different tunes, drowning each other out and fighting with each other. For example, we want to be happy but at the same time hate ourselves.
Beneath the stream of incessant competing thoughts and emotions, are deep-rooted habitual patterns that repeat themselves over and over again. They are often rooted in past experiences and not relevant to the present, but we are unaware of them and constantly repeat them. For example, when we were young we did not receive the love and attention we needed and then carry the belief that we are not worthy of love. This may not be relevant to our lives now, but if we still believe it, then it determines how we see ourselves and we end up not feeling loved as a consequence.
As a result of these patterns we end up carrying a lot of emotional pain in our bodies and minds. Whenever this pain rears its head we do whatever we can to avoid it – reach for a cigarette, grab a strong coffee, play our MP3 player. And so it gets driven underground and remains unresolved, but nonetheless affects our mood and physical health.
(Grateful thanks to Karma Choden for permission to quote from his material)