Did you hang out with your precious attention today? Were you mostly mindful or absent-minded?
The answer is probably: “both!”
Harvard Research shows that our mind wanders, on average, 47% of the time: nearly half our lives! We spend that time thinking of what isn’t going on or propelling ourselves into the future. Or ruminating on past events, feelings and relationships or busy wishing things were different right now.
Formal mindfulness meditation practice is a simple, free tool available to everyone – all you need is yourself, your attention and your breath – to profoundly enjoy each moment we’re alive.
I say free because you can teach yourself, using a book or one of the many internet, app and cloud resources available for mindfulness/mediation. But you may want to spend some money on getting your practice off the ground and doing it with others in a class or retreat can have a strengthening effect on making it your habit.
What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness Works, who I work for as a mindfulness trainer, defines it as “being present and aware at the same time”. Check out a few more other definitions, and you’ll get a feel for what mindfulness is before you start practising it. Or, if you’re already involved in a mindfulness practice, see if you can recognise some of these descriptions, or in other words, mindfulness in theory:
From Stephen Archer, director of Mindfulness Training:
“Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, with curiosity and compassion. It leads to a deeper understanding of life and how to respond wisely.”
From Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness:
“Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
From Shauna Shapiro, of shaunashapiro.com:
“Intentionally paying attention with kindness.”
Once you enter into a regular mindfulness practice with yourself (on your own or with others), you may want to give it your own definition. Let me know what you come up with! I currently call it something like “the art of sitting still” and “the daily practice of shutting up – with intention and awareness and without ambition or trying for perfection”.
Karl Baker, director and founder of Mindfulness Works, the largest mindfulness training organisation in New Zealand and currently also operating in Australia, defines it as both being aware and being present, as well as uses the definition by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his Guidebook. However, also recently emphasised this on his Mindfulness Works Facebook Page:
“There are mindfulness trainers and training organisations who try to possess mindfulness and make it their own. They claim there is is ‘right’ mindfulness (always their way) and ‘wrong’ mindfulness (other people’s ways).
They ignore their own self-protective agenda, under the guise of ‘spiritual’ or ‘scientific’ self-righteousness.”
“In truth – mindfulness is freely available to us all and an innate natural capacity. We could even say mindfulness is Life itself.
Mindfulness Works is committed to making mindfulness – as available to as many people as possible. We are committed to people realising that they are inherently OK just as they are, that mindfulness is not complicated and freely available. Rightly or wrongly.”
I love that about Mindfulness Works: the busting of all these myths, the removal of “right or wrong” and offering this simple practice for people to (re-) learn and use if they want to, to reclaim their own authority, to be their own best friend again, to become very close to themselves and know how to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Where was your precious attention hanging out most of today? Were you mostly mindful, or absent-minded? Did you put your mindfulness meditation practices to good use? Reply by clicking the comments link above this article. I’d love to hear from you!
© Sitara Morgenster