What is Mindfulness?

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Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword in our society today. So, many of us may have heard that practicing mindfulness will enhance our lives in some way and we head over to an internet search engine to learn more. What happens next may be unsurprising to us, it may be pretty typical but it is no less disheartening. We search for mindfulness, for this thing we heard is going to help us greatly, and every site, every definition is different. How can we go about “practicing mindfulness” when we aren’t all that sure of its meaning or definition? In our blog today we offer only one of a myriad of possible definitions and we explore the some places within our lives where this definition of mindfulness is applicable (Hint: There are far more places than those we mention…). You may find a definition of mindfulness that you resonate with more sincerely but we offer this definition as a “jumping off point” for your exploration. With that caveat provided, let’s get started!

One Way To Look At Mindfulness

One common definition that we may find for mindfulness is the present moment awareness of our bodily sensations, emotions, and thoughts without judgment.

Why Mindfulness?

When we are aware of our thoughts, emotions, and even how our body feels we may create stories around those experiences and those stories may take us away from the present moment and bring us to a place where we decide a feeling or thought is good, bad, acceptable, or unacceptable. For example if I sit down to take a few moments for myself, I may decide to bring my attention to the sensations I am feeling within my body. I may notice my stomach rise and fall and then notice that I may not have eaten yet today. I may begin to tell myself a story about how “I just don’t have time for anything… I need to be more efficient at work so that I have time to …”. Whether we notice it or not, this bodily sensation created a story, we attended to the story, we created a judgment based on the bodily sensation, and that attention and judgment brought us out of the present moment. This is common and we can do our best not to be hard on ourselves for this behavior as we work to address the impact it has on our lives. Mindfulness practices can help us to address this behavior in our lives because we can create within ourselves a habit of non-judgmental awareness of how we think and feel.

Another way to think about where mindfulness can be of service to us is to contemplate times in our daily lives when we act without much thought or when we react more quickly than may have been helpful. Certainly if we are crossing the street and see a car, we need to react quickly to move out of the way of an on-coming vehicle. Impulsive action is designed for this very thing. However, there may be moments wherein impulsive action does not serve us. When a friend says something unkind about our partner or another friend we may impulsively hang up the phone or say something unkind in the moment. Perhaps those impulsive behaviors cause strife in our relationship and perhaps we feel regret when we reflect on them, even just moments later. Mindfulness practices offer a change to put a bit of space between feeling or thinking something, and acting upon those thoughts or feelings. No doubt, there may be times when this can be of use to us all.

Mindfulness provides us with the opportunity to bring ourselves back to the present, to this very moment, in a place within ourselves without those stories or value judgments and without impulsive action. “I’m in!” you might say. So are we. Below you will find a short mindfulness practice to get you started. Creating a routine mindfulness practice, whether it includes mindful movement, yoga, meditation, or an exercise like the one below, may help you to build space in your life for the thoughts, sensations, emotions in a way that serves you more effectively on your road to recovery.

Do you have a favorite or routine mindfulness practice? Feel free to share it with the Root To Rise Community: We’d love to hear from you!

Sample Mindfulness Practice For The Beginning Of Your Journey

This practice addresses our thoughts, sensations, and emotions. It may help to read through the exercise before beginning to try it out so that you may attend fully to the practice during the time you’ve set aside.

Find yourself in a comfortable seated position. You may allow your eyes to close if this feels safe and appropriate for you in the space you are using.

  • Begin to focus your attention on your breathing. Feel your chest rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Keep your attention here for a few moments as you feel yourself breathing.
  • Bring your focus or awareness to each of your senses, one at a time. For example: What do you see, hear, smell, and so on. Keep your attention with each sense for at least five breaths. Simply acknowledge the sensations you feel. If your attention should be drawn elsewhere, just bring your focus back to your breath, and then to your sensations.
  • Now draw your focus or attention to how you feel within, to your emotions. Keep your focus and attention on you emotion for at least ten breaths. Simply acknowledge the emotion you feel, and should your mind wander, return it to your breath, and then to the emotion on which you are focused.
  • Bring your focus to your thoughts. Allow your thoughts to drift by like boats on an ocean. You see them but you need not “swim out to them” by focusing all of your attention on one thought. Watch your thoughts as they pass: One, and then another, and then another. If you find yourself paying more attention to one than any other, if you have begun to “swim out to that boat”, allow yourself to let that thought pass, and allow yourself to “return to shore” by focusing your awareness upon your breath as you guide your attention back to your thoughts. Remind yourself to watch your thoughts as they pass and allow them to do so without judging their voyage on the sea of your mind.
  • When you find yourself ready, return your attention more fully to your breathing, allow your eyes to open if you closed them, and allow yourself to invite movement back into your body.

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