• Jesse Thornton

What is Mindfulness?

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Mindfulness has gained increasing acceptance in America.  Yoga studios are popping up throughout cities, college athletic programs include mindfulness practices in their training, NPR even held a discussion on mindfulness in America.   Given that mindfulness has grown in our culture, I thought it would be good to talk about nine principles of mindfulness:

Focus on the present moment:

Mindfulness is about the here-and-now moment. Too often we get caught up in thoughts about the past or future, which takes us away from the experience of our lives.  One important principal of mindfulness is to remain open to how things unfold in the present moment rather than holding preconceived notions of how things should or will turn out.

Being fully present:

This means being spaciously aware of whatever is going on in the present moment. What does your body feel right now?  What are you seeing, hearing, and doing at this moment?

Openness to experience:

Welcome and remain curious about what may be new or different. Become aware of your experience as sensations arise.  Do not shut down from feelings or experiences because you fear they may be too much or that they may be negative.

Non-judgment:

Avoid categorizing thoughts, feelings, or actions as good or bad or try to change them. Instead, observe them and recognize that they are there for a purpose, whether to inform us, protect us, or help us grow.  Recognize that just because we do not understand an action does not mean it is not purposeful.

Acceptance of things as they are:

Avoid forcing a change on reality. Instead of feeling like a victim or decrying unfairness, accept the reality of things clearly knowing it is tolerable.  This also means letting others be the judges of what is right for them.

Connection:

Foster a feeling of connection to all living things and in being a part of a larger whole. Feel grateful for the cycle of life, food, and beauty.   Know that all beings strive to feel happy and avoid suffering and that you are connected in similar needs and desires.

Non-attachment:

Try not to hold tightly onto things, people, or experiences knowing that life is a constant flow. Attachment comes from fear and is the basis of suffering.  Through a degree of non-attachment comes flexibility and the ability to adapt.

Peace and equanimity:

Maintain an even keel, not getting too swept up in life’s highs and lows. Know that life is a cycle and you are on one point of a whole picture at any given time.  When things don’t go your way, stay firmly rooted in your own clear vision and values.

Compassion:

Deal gently, kindly, and patiently with yourself and others. Do not judge or condemn.  Instead, open your heart to really listen and understand others’ experiences.  Allow yourself to feel others’ sufferings.

These principles can help you become more familiar with mindfulness and mindful living.  If you wish to learn more, read Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn or sign up for a yoga class.  If you suffer from emotional distress or mental illness, talk to your counselor about applying mindfulness to improve your emotional life.

For more on mindfulness consider this article: Mindful Living in America



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