What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a life skill which can deepen our sense of well-being and fulfillment. It involves paying attention to what is occurring in our present moment experience, with an attitude of openness and non-judgmental acceptance. It engages all of our senses as we open to our entire experience, becoming aware of our body, emotions, thoughts and the external environment.

It is about “coming back to our senses”, being in touch with ourselves, with others and our surroundings in the present moment. It is a natural and an intuitive state of presence in which we can feel more connected, real and alive.

Mindfulness is a state of being which is accessible to every one of us. It is also a skill which we can cultivate more deeply in our lives. Some experience of mindful presence will have been felt by all of us during some moments of our lives, but perhaps we did not know what is was when we experienced it.

We will be aware that this is not perhaps our usual mode of operation. During our stressful lives, our attention is usually dispersed. We are usually busy juggling a number of tasks and pre-occupations at the same time, and none of our actions or thoughts receives our full attention. We are usually leaping stressfully from one thing to the next, like a monkey in a tree, grabbing at things that interest us or demand our attention. Then we drift on to something else; such as being distracted, day-dreaming, being caught up in our thoughts and worries about what happened yesterday and what we need to do tomorrow. This results in distraction, not hearing fully what is said to us, preoccupation with our own issues and concerns, constant judgment of our experiences as good or bad according to our own preferences and often reaction against the way things actually are. This is our ordinary state of mind and not exactly a peaceful one. We can spend a good part of our lives like this, not being fully present and therefore missing most of the moments in which we live.

When we get in touch with qualities of mindfulness, we will feel a sense of coming back home to ourselves in a more meaningful way. We may find that we can get in touch with a sense of brightness, clarity of purpose, playfulness, creativity and inner peace. It is said that mindfulness practitioners develop a more optimistic stance in their lives, and a courage which enables them to work with rather than avoid life’s challenges. Certainly, mindfulness is not just about having more blissful moments, it is about being more fully present in our lives, remaining curious, embracing all of our experiences, and most importantly, changing the relationship we have towards our suffering.