Mindfulness: The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. – Oxford English Dictionary
Mindfulness is not something that we need to acquire. Just like we have muscles in our bodies, mindfulness is a quality that we all have already. But, if we want our muscles to be stronger, and in good health, we would need to train and exercise them, and the same is true for mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
The state of mindfulness we refer to, when speaking in terms of mindfulness meditation, practises and exercises, is slightly different to the dictionary definition. The mindfulness we speak of includes one extra aspect, and that is non-judgement. With mindfulness practises and meditations we seek to develop or, more accurately, cultivate* this state of conscious, non-judgemental awareness.
You already practise mindfulness in your everyday life, but you might not be aware of it. Think about this…
Making Mindful Tea
Have you ever made a cup of tea? When you pour the boiling water into the cup, you feel the kettle in your hand, and you focus your mind, bringing your attention to the water. You remain consciously aware of the pouring water. But you are pouring the water into a cup, so you focus on both the water and the cup. What happens if your attention sways though, and you lose focus of the boiling water? You might spill and perhaps even burn yourself. Many of us have learned, through experience, that it is best to remain consciously aware of what we are doing, when pouring boiling water from a kettle into a cup. We are mindful of what we are doing at that present moment.
We know that boiling water could burn us. We also know that to make a good cup of tea, the water needs to be as hot as possible. But, as we pour the boiling water, we do not judge it for it’s ability to burn us, neither do we judge it for it’s ability to brew a strong, tasty cup of tea. And also, as we tip the kettle, our thoughts are not about previous times that we poured water, or how we will pour water in the future. We just remain focussed on, and aware of the present moment, as we pour it into the cup. We remain mindful.
In the case of making a cup of tea, mindfulness might be defined as: Maintaining full, non-judgemental awareness of the present moment.
When we practise conscious, non-judgemental awareness regularly, we call this cultivating mindfulness. Cultivating mindfulness is, in essence, practising mindfulness techniques regularly.
When we cultivate plants in a garden, we need to tend to the plants often, so that they grow well. When our garden is established, we still need to tend to the plants though. There is no end-point. But, as we continue to tend to the plants in the garden, the actual act of cultivation becomes a part of the beauty of the garden. The late Dr Wayne Dyer had a wonderful analogy for this. He said this: When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.
The simplest and most direct way of cultivating mindfulness is through meditation.
Mindfulness meditation differs from other types of meditation, in that it is not intended to change us, or make us any different to what we already are. If we were to meditate with the intention to change ourselves, change would imply an event in the future, and distract us from the present moment. Intention to change ourselves would also imply that we are currently not good enough, which is a judgement on ourselves. It helps us to effectively train our minds to be anchored in the present moment, viewing it without judgement or polarising it with opinion.
In essence, it is a journey of self-discovery.
It’s not all about meditation though. There are many ways to bring conscious awareness into our day. Just like the example of making tea, cultivating mindfulness can be done at any moment. An example might be brushing your teeth. Pay attention to every sensation: The taste and tingle of the toothpaste, the feel of the bristles on your teeth and gums and even the cool temperature of the water as you rinse your mouth.
Ready to start your journey into mindfulness? Then click here: Meditation Techniques