What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness teaches us to direct our attention to what is happening right here, right now, with an attitude of kindness towards ourselves and our experience.
This “being with” ourselves is in contrast with more habitual states of mind in which we are often preoccupied with memories, fantasies, worries or planning. Yet, the capacity to be present is innate to each one of us and can be deliberately cultivated, alongside our capacity for kindness. Although we are often unaware of the current of our thinking, it has a profound effect on how we live our lives, as well on our mental and emotional health.
What Mindfulness Is Not:
Mindfulness is not positive thinking. Mindfulness is not about having only good feelings. It does not help you to get rid of unwanted feelings, but rather it helps to actually feel them.
That is why it is often said that mindfulness is not for the fainthearted. Our usual reaction to uncomfortable or distressing feelings is to push them away and try to get rid of them.
With mindfulness we learn to turn towards the difficulties, challenges and pain in our lives with an attitude of allowing and kindness. This is a gentle process, not a forceful one, and it happens gradually as we build emotional strength and resilience.
Resistance and avoidance require a lot of energy and when we let them go and allow ourselves and our experience to be as they are we find that we free up a lot of energy which can now go into seeing more clearly, making wiser choices and taking wiser action.
Mindfulness is not relaxation. Becoming more relaxed may be a welcome by-product of mindfulness practice, but it is not the aim. As we develop mindfulness we begin to see our lives, our behaviours and relationships more clearly and this is not always easy. That is why the attitude we bring to the practice is one of kindness, patience and self-compassion.