Introduction to Mindfulness
What is Mindfulness?
You are invited to participate in a unique experience that involves living intentionally in the present moment. If you are willing, you can start right where you are, by observing each moment as an opportunity to tune in and connect with yourself. By listening to your own body, trusting your own experiences, you can learn a way of becoming more aware and calming your mind.
A Mode of Being
By changing our mode of living from one of constantly ‘doing’ to one of simply ‘being’, we can actively tune in to each moment in an effort to become more aware from one moment to the next. By purposefully allowing our body and mind to rest in the present moment, we are simply allowing ourselves to be with things as they are without trying to change anything, simply observing being as it occurs, from moment to moment.
In taking time for yourself each day to practice this mode of being, you may learn to slow down, to observe sensations and thoughts passing through your mind, watching them come and go, cultivating awareness, accepting yourself, and becoming more calm. Mindfulness takes practice, and the more that you exercise your attention and awareness of the present moment, the more benefit that you may observe from these exercises.
Training Attention and Awareness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that simply involves training our attention. When we start paying attention to our own mind, we may notice that much of the time our thoughts are more on the future or the past than in the present. We may be thinking about what we are going to do this evening or plans we may have made for the weekend, or perhaps mulling over something that happened yesterday or last week.
Much of the time, we go through our daily activities routinely, automatically, without being fully aware of what we are doing or experiencing. When go through life on ‘auto-pilot’, we may be only be partially aware of what is happening in the present moment. Even when we try to deliberately concentrate, the mind can wanders, thoughts may drift, and we become distracted. It is difficult to be in present moment for very long.
A Simple Practice
Thoughts can be overwhelming at times; we can get lost in our thoughts and lose track of other experiences. To observe how easily your awareness is carried away by the power of thought, try this simple experiment: Sitting comfortably in a chair with your back straight, pay attention to your breathing for a few minutes. Without trying to control your breathing simply tuning in to your breath, as it flows in and flows out. Noticing how it feels.
At some point, you may think to yourself, “this is silly just sitting here”, or “I feel bored.” When thoughts occur, notice that it is a type of judgment and simply let that thought go and bring your attention back to your breathing in and breathing out. After a few minutes, reflect on how much your mind wandered from attending to the process of breathing.
Much of the time, our minds jump from one thing to another, making it hard to focus attention on our breathing for long. By intentionally training our attention, observing the body, thoughts, and emotions, we can calm the mind, watching our experiences unfold from moment to moment, accepting them as they are. This is the process of mindfulness.
Readings on Mindfulness
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012). Mindfulness for Beginners. Sounds True Press. This book provides a great introduction to mindfulness and is the central text for the Mindfulness and Math Anxiety study.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full Catastrophe Living; Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. Delta Press: Random House.