How is it Practised?
We decide to bring our attention into the present moment; noticing our thoughts and feelings and bodily sensations.
Given that the force of habit pulling us in different directions is so strong, we need a method to anchor us in the present moment. So we learn the technique of resting our attention on a single point of awareness, such as our breath or sound, and whenever our attention is carried away by distracting thoughts we notice this and bring our attention back to the Mindfulness practice.
When we practise in this way we notice that there is a constant shift between Mindfulness and distraction. Distraction is the tendency of the mind to identify with thought and emotion and to become lost in spinning a story. Mindfulness is recognising this and bringing the mind back to the present, back to the focus.
Distraction is unconscious and Mindfulness is conscious. It does not matter how many times our attention is carried away – the only important thing is to notice this and bring our attention back to the focus.
An important point is that we are not trying to stop our thoughts. We are not trying to create a thought-free space in our minds. We are training in not habitually identifying with thoughts, but instead we identify that our thoughts are not facts.
Mindfulness practice is about striking up a different relationship with ourselves. Instead of thinking habitually and unconsciously, we are training ourselves to think consciously and effectively. For example, walking down a familiar street and not noticing anything going on around us, suddenly arriving at our garden gate and wondering how we got there. What we term ‘automatic pilot’. If we walk in conscious awareness we are able to notice all kinds of things.