Everywhere you look these days, someone is talking about mindfulness. Problems with your kids? You need mindfulness. Problems with your partner? Get into mindfulness! Problems with your boss or coworkers? You definitely need mindfulness!
What we don’t often see is an explanation of what mindfulness actually is. In his paper “A Brief Definition of Mindfulness” author, researcher, and founder of the American Mindfulness Research Association Dr. David S. Black explains that mindfulness boils down to several things: a personality characteristic or trait, an outcome (the state of awareness that comes from mindfulness training), and a practice (mindfulness practice itself). As you can see, there is no good, single definition of mindfulness, because the term is used to talk about a number of things. With that being said, there is one particular thread that ties these things together: Deliberate intention.
Daily meditation is one way to become more mindful, but it is not the only way. In fact, meditation is not actually necessary to become more mindful. Simply intentionally becoming more aware of where our thoughts are is the most basic form of mindfulness. While meditation is helpful in becoming aware of our thoughts, it is possible to learn how to be mindful without it.
Mindfulness doesn’t require that you run off and join a monastery. Everyone, no matter what their lifestyle is, can learn and practice mindfulness. Becoming deliberate and intentional about where our attention lies is something that everyone can do with some guidance and practice.
In order to be mindful, we consciously and without judgment choose what goes on in our minds. For example, if you have ever traveled somewhere but don’t remember how you got there? This “going on autopilot” is a perfect example of a lack of mindfulness. When you realize that your thoughts are wandering, gently bring your focus back to the item at hand. There is no need to be harsh with yourself, since distraction is part of the human condition and perfectly natural.
“Being mindful” is not something that has to be all-consuming. In fact, being completely consumed by being mindful is, strangely enough, the exact opposite of being mindful. Even though that is the case, the more that you practice non-judgmental awareness in your life, the more often you will find yourself living life to the fullest at this very moment. That is essentially the goal of mindfulness.
I draw from my Buddhist background, as well as secular teachings, to help my clients become more conscious of what areas in their life could benefit from mindfulness. Then, together, we develop strategies that the clients will use to put knowledge into action, becoming more focused and successful in life.