Mindfulness is simply the “act of remembering the present” as one of my meditation teachers Patrick Kearney describes it. It's one important quality that's needed for meditation. As we engage in life our attention is often consumed by our thoughts about the past (such as a conversation we had yesterday) or the future (such as planning for tomorrow). While this kind of thinking can be useful at times, it often means we lose track of our present experience. For example have you ever driven somewhere and not remembered how you got there? This is a classic example of having some level of awareness but not mindfulness. Mindfulness is a gentle form of attention to our experience. It helps us remember that each moment we can choose what we want to focus on and this can have a profound effect on our wellbeing (Huxter, 2016).
In his book "Healing the heart and mind with mindfulness: Ancient path, present moment", clinical psychologist Mal Huxter, describes four areas we can be mindful of:
- Body and bodily sensations
- Feelings including whether we experience something as pleasant, unpleasant or neither
- Mind states including thoughts, emotions and overall states of mind
- Connections between our thoughts, emotions, and actions and their recurring patterns
One of the most important things when practicing mindfulness is to realise that when you become aware that your mind has wandered off your object of attention, this is a moment of mindfulness. This is what the practice is all about. Sometimes while practicing mindfulness when we notice our mind has wandered we might beat ourselves up a bit (eg. “I can’t do this”, “My mind’s too busy”, “It just keeps wandering all the time”). If you find yourself beating yourself up for having a wandering mind, then give yourself a break! Remember that noticing your mind has wandered actually is the practice. Wandering all over the place is just what the mind does. Next time your mind wanders you can then gently and kindly bring your mind back to the object of your practice (eg. the body).
The best way to learn about mindfulness is by giving it a try. I've included some guided meditations you can try to help grow and strengthen the skill of mindfulness.