What is Mindfulness? In 45 characters
Faster than a Tweet sent from on the go (sent from my iPhone, excuse any typos), it’s:
explained in just 45 characters.
[Mindfulness is:] The practice of learning to be fully present
That may not give you much more to work with than the word itself, but within those 45 characters are four key elements that help break down what mindfulness is actually about.
The practice of learning to be fully present
- Practice —as this word alludes to, mindfulness is something that one must work at; it is a sort of mental muscle that takes effort to exercise and build.
Like most practices, like running or flossing, mindfulness is easy to start, but also easy to let slip. As the ancient Chinese philosopher and author of The Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says, “every day, something is dropped.”
Mindfulness is about accepting what setbacks may come during the practice and returning to the practice again undaunted. Rather than beating yourself up and becoming too discouraged to try it again, mindfulness is about dusting yourself off and trying to be present again, again and again, every time you let your focus on being present slip.
- Being present — being present means accepting your present moment without obsessing about the good old days of the past, or the salvation of the future.
Accepting the present means just that: living right here, right now, and not wishing or dreaming of some other life, such as having a higher paying job, more social media followers, or a more witty personality. We are who we are and we can occasionally feel disappointed in who we are, but thankfully we also have an innate superpower, which is our ability to universally accept whatever happens during the course of our lives. Mindfulness is about realizing that we don’t need to be or do anything to become worthy or worthwhile; we can be inspired to great ends, but those great ends in the end will not make us better than anyone else, and will not somehow grant us ever-lasting happiness. The bad days will continue to pay us a visit from time-to-time. Mindfulness is about accepting the good with the bad.
- Being fully present — the fully in being fully present is meant to underscore how difficult it can be to just focus on being present.
It’s easy to say that you are present, and then one moment later become engulfed in some thought or memory from earlier in the day/week, or some anticipatory thought or emotion from your imagination of the future. It’s hard to be fully engaged in a moment doing something we’d rather not be doing and to refrain from labeling or judging that present moment as undesirable and wanting to escape into our minds, lost in thought about the past or future.
The problem with thinking about the past/future is that it’s addictive. When we do it often, we will tend to miss even the good moments and become lost thinking of or imagining other, even better moments instead. Mindfulness is once more an easy practice to begin, but challenging to stick with.
- Learning —learning is listed last here to allow the more fundamental components of mindfulness to be covered first; however, in order to build your mindfulness muscle, it is important to learn more about the right exercises to do, such as different forms of meditation, yoga, affirmations, pranayama (breathwork), visualizations, spirituality, sangha (community support), and so on. Learning what works best for you personally is key to enabling your own mindfulness practice to be fruitful.
For more details on how to practice mindfulness, refer to this quick-start guide, and stay tuned for more in the future!
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