Simply put, mindfulness is about being aware of and noticing one’s present moment by moment experience as it is happening, alongside accepting that experience with an open minded curiosity and non-judgement. The three basic elements include:
Awareness: Developing an open-minded awareness by purposefully paying attention to all of our experiences thoughts, feelings, sensations and what is going on around us as it is happening without analysis or judgement
Being with: Learning to be with all of our experiences whether pleasant, unpleasant or indifferent without either (1) ignoring/resisting or pushing them away or (2) getting caught up and carried away by them.
Choices: Through being aware of and being with our experiences, we open up a responsive space to discern more clearly what is happening, make considered choices that are good for us and which promote wellness.
In the fast paced culture in which we work and live the inevitable and unavoidable challenges of work and life stress, pain, illness, loss or suffering can leave us feeling scattered, distracted and overwhelmed. Often, therefore, we find ourselves caught up in and swept away by the never ending current of thoughts, feelings, worries, pressures and responsibilities, operating on so-called ‘automatic pilot’ and the momentum of constant over activity and ‘doing’. It is these habitual reactions, which operating outside of our awareness add unnecessary layers of stress and difficulty to our experiences, inadvertently making things worse.
Through mindfulness practice, we begin to cultivate an openness and non-judgmental acceptance of all our experience, helping us to notice our stress response and avoid getting caught up in unhelpful thought and behavioural patterns responding skilfully, with choice rather than through habitual reaction.
When we practice mindfulness, attention is no longer entangled with or distorted by the past or future and we are not pointlessly wasting energy judging, evaluating or resisting what we experience in the present moment. Coming back to and focusing on the present moment involves a simple shift of awareness which changes our relationship with and helps us meet the inevitable stresses and strains of life with a renewed strength clarity and confidence.