So, what is mindfulness anyway?
Simply stated, mindfulness is about being fully awake and present to the here and now--as it is, and without judgement. So often, we get trapped in our thoughts and emotions related to our past, or project ahead and think/worry about our future. When we do that, we are missing what’s happening right before our eyes in the present moment. And, when it comes down to it, the present is all we ever really have.
Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of what’s happening both internally (thoughts and feelings) and externally in the world around us. It’s about living with our eyes open versus being on autopilot. It is only when we are able to see clearly that we can start to make change in our lives. Through mindfulness, we can learn to tolerate and withstand our pain... and also more fully embrace those moments of joy, happiness, and peace when they show up. Mindfulness helps us be more solid in who we are, and anchors us in life so we are not tossed about by what's happening around us.
How do I practice mindfulness?
The good news about mindfulness is that you can practice it anywhere, doing anything. If you are new to mindfulness, the easiest strategy for beginning is by focusing on your breath. Find someplace comfortable and get settled in. You can keep your eyes open, or you can close them if you like. Set a timer for 1 minute, and during this time, focus your attention on each inhale and each exhale. Your mind will likely wander away at some point—which is normal. When that happens, notice and acknowledge that your mind has wandered away…and gently bring it back to your breath. Sometimes you have to bring it back over, and over and over again. That’s natural.
Also, try to stay away from judgments if you are unable to focus on your breath the whole time. For example, if you find yourself saying, “I’m not doing it right,” notice that, too, and bring yourself right back to your breath. There is no right or wrong way in mindfulness.
The more you practice, the better you will get at it. As you get more comfortable, stretch out the amount of time you dedicate to your practice.