What is mindfulness, and what does being mindful mean to you in your everyday life? Here are three principles to help you understand mindfulness and some practical examples of recognizing mindfulness opportunities to live more consciously and enjoy life.
Principle #1 – Mindfulness Is the Action of Creating Space
Mindfulness is about creating awareness. It’s about giving attention to a particular form, physical or thought, without reaction to the form. Let me explain it with a kind of analogy. Let’s say you are sitting out on your back porch one morning in mid-October and having a warm cup of tea. When you woke up and dressed that morning, you put on a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved shirt instead of sweats. As you’re sitting outside, you realize the air is still a bit too chilly to be lounging about in shorts. Just as this awareness occurs as if to validate the thought, the chill of a slight breeze passes over the bare skin on your arms, and you observe cold sensations coursing through your body, and your skin reacts by creating goosebumps. Still, even with this realization and with the body acting independently, you don’t react, instead you feel the air pass over your skin and your skin reacts. You, however, remain without judgment as a spectator to form. Mindfulness is the act of attention that creates the space between you and the form.
To be mindful means to be attentive to what is. This can be what is happening around you, as with the breeze, and within you. The forms within us are physical feelings and thoughts, but both are still forms. Mindfulness is giving attention to those forms without judgment.
Principle #2 – Mindfulness Is a Muscle That Requires No Muscle
It’s important to understand that the attention of our minds on a form doesn’t mean processing the idea of the form in our minds (thinking) but instead simply providing attention to it to observe the form itself independently of ourselves.
Imagine for a moment you stop for lunch at one of your favorite cafes. You skip by the menu stand and head straight for the counter to order, and just as you finish your order and are turning to see where you’d like to sit down, you observe what appears to be full seating in the cafe. Mindfulness occurs the moment you utilize the observation muscle, which isn’t a muscle at all. If you begin to let the understanding of the full seating sink into your mind and process what that might mean for you, then you are utilizing the brain (thinking), and you have stepped away from being mindful and have become a participant in form. Once the thoughts occur, you may feel the urge to develop an emotion about the moment because your subconscious mind may tell you that an entire room may mean no seating or a less desirable seat. These feelings may manifest into the emotion of anxiety, slight but anxiety nonetheless. Mindfulness in the cafe scenario is simply giving attention to what is without thought or reaction. The moment the brain’s muscle is engaged, you are moving out of mindfulness for that observation. Mindfulness is simply creating awareness without becoming an interested participant in the form.
You are likely seeing how mindfulness as a tool is utilized to create a state of awareness. The act of creating this is voluntarily being mindful.
Principle #3 – Mindfulness Demands Nothing From You
In the hectic lives of Americans today, we easily have thousands of demands placed upon us within a single day. From schedules and work to relationships and social media advertisements, we are constantly being barraged, usually something related to time or money. The art of mindfulness doesn’t require anything from you. It is the complete opposite.
Being mindful is simply letting your attention move to observation without having to pass judgment or categorize anything you observe. Simply put, it is what it is. Moving into a place of stillness requires nothing of the observer but to be present. You have nothing to burden your mind in consciousness. The load is light, and the observer only needs to sit back and observe. In nature, you can observe the birds as they fly about or perhaps the river as it rushes past and creates foamy waves near a bank as it bounces off and moves around a corner. By yourself, you can observe your breathing. As mindfulness helps you manage anxiety spurred on by thought and emotion, you can step back from the emotion and become aware of it independently of you. This type of restraint diminishes the power emotion has over you. Naturally, practicing restraint strengthens the muscle of restraint. This muscle is the same as being a mindful observer.
Mindfulness is attention to objects, people, and things. Observing what is happening around us is a conscious decision, leading to an awareness of ourselves in life. There is no judgment, although you can create it. Once you do, however, you have re-attached yourself and identified with a thought or opinion of the form. If that happens, you can easily maneuver into being mindful again. Learn to make this a habit within your own lives.
If mindfulness has piqued your interest, consider taking an online mindfulness course.