What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice of bringing one’s attention to the present moment with curiosity, openness and acceptance (sometimes referred to as “beginner’s mind”). When practicing mindfulness, we are focusing on what is happening in the “here and now” with a non-judgemental attitude, in the attempt to create a non-reactive state between our mind-body connection.
Mindfulness is rooted in centuries old Buddhist teachings and has found a new resurgence of being applied to many aspects of human suffering, struggle and difficulty. Recently the evidence has supported mindfulness as a therapeutic strategy for several common concerns including depression, anxiety, stress, physical symptoms, addictions, relationship issues, extreme and altered states, group conflicts and social tensions.
Mindfulness practices vary widely but can be as simple as taking three successive breaths and focusing one’s attention fully on inhaling and exhaling, which is in line with a meditative state.
When you bring your attention to the present moment you can achieve a state of calm awareness of your body, feelings and mind. This meditative awareness is actually comprised of two parts: self-regulated attention and awareness to the orientation of your experience. Both are important aspects of the mindfulness practice that, over time, help you to be more resilient, recognize habitual patterns and allow you to respond (versus react) in new ways.
Fixing one’s attention on the here and now enhances receptivity to inner wisdom and helps us to filter the distracting thoughts that dull our capacity to listen deeply to the guidance of the heart. We move through a mindfulness practice by accepting these thoughts, allowing ourselves to experience them and exploring their roots, while making sure not to attach our identity to them.
In therapy, mindfulness practices can help us slow down and establish new ways of relating to ourselves and the many demands of our lives.