What is Mindfulness?
Put simply, mindfulness is focused, relaxed attention.
Attention is the at the Root
Everything we do requires attention. When we learn to play an instrument, engage in a conversation, or even sip a cup of hot tea, it is imperative that we pay attention. You could say attention is at the root of our life. In the same way that we can't see the roots of most plants, we don't often notice our attention even though it is so vital. When we practice mindfulness we go down beneath the soil and cultivate our roots of attention.
To understand the important aspects of attention we can break it down into two skills.
- Focus: The ability to bring our attention to what matters.
- Relax: Letting go of tension in the body, being open to experience and learn new things in the internal and external world with acceptance.
Imagine learning to ride a bike. How do these two skills come into play? If you were to take your focus off of riding what would happen? If you tensed up when the bike was going out of balance what would the result be?
This is mindfulness and it relates to everything we do and experience.
Mindfulness is a Practice
Since focus and relaxation are natural human capacities, you could say we are all practicing mindfulness to some degree, all the time. However, the amazing discovery of the discipline of mindfulness is that through practice we can strengthen these abilities.
The Fruits of Practice
When we strengthen these skills of attention we empower ourselves to grow in many ways.
Some of the benefits that come from a regular mindfulness practice are:
- Reduced emotional distress
- Increased happiness and fulfillment.
- Greater sense of care for self and others.
- Improved ability to change unhelpful patterns and behaviors.
- Deeper knowledge of who you are.
Ways to Practice Throughout the Day
- Setting aside time in your day for a formal mindfulness practice will help you cultivate the skills of attention. Here is a website with three, 10-minute guided mindfulness exercises. www.centerformindfullearning.org/mindfulcity/ Click on 10-minute challenge.
- Take three mindful breaths before: opening email, starting your car, getting out of bed, taking a bite of food, etc.
- Focus on a positive goal in the morning and reflect on it at the end of the day.
- Pay attention to relaxation in your body as you do household chores.