• What is Mindfulness?

    Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention in a particular way: on purpose; to your present moment experience; with some curiosity, openness, kindness and acceptance; and doing so without judgment. Ultimately, it is being aware of what is happening, as it is happening, and noticing what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically moment to moment.

    Mindful awareness disrupts automatic tendencies/reactivity and creates the space to choose a different response in any given moment or situation.

    Trying to understand mindfulness by its definition is like trying to understand what it is like to fall in love or go skiing by reading a textbook. You might get a general idea, but you would miss the best part: what it actually feels like. Mindfulness is all about experience, about the actual aliveness of each moment. You learn to pay attention deliberately, in the present moment, not because someone said that it would be good to do, but because that is where you find your life.

    So much of the time we are very far from being present to the current moment and experience. Instead, we tend to be lost in our thoughts and thinking (agonizing, regretting, ruminating, etc.) about things that happened in the past or worrying about what may happen in the future. Often these thoughts run continuously in the back of our minds – like a running commentary – and we usually don’t even realize this is happening. However, this process can have a huge impact on our stress levels.

    Current research studies of the mind show that about 53% of the time, we move through our lives in “automatic pilot” mode – where we travel through our days without really paying attention or noticing  what is ACTUALLY happening. We get stuck in our thoughts. Sometimes, it doesn’t seem to matter too much. But, at other times, it is the only thing that does matter. Maybe somebody or something we care for needs our attention and we don’t notice.  Or perhaps it is a gorgeous day, but we don’t see what is right in front of us. Spend enough time on auto-pilot and life begins to feel shallow. Everything is here, yet…something is missing.

    Mindfulness, in the most general sense, is about waking up from a life on “automatic pilot.”

    What is the difference between Mindfulness and Meditation?

    • Mindfulness involves working with processes of the mind, like: attention, awareness and concentration and meditation is a way to train these processes in the mind. Mindfulness is a way of being.
    • Mindfulness meditation is the practice that leads to the development of mindfulness.  The purpose of your practice is not to induce any particular state of mind, but to bring added clarity to
      whatever experience you’re having in the moment. An attitude of openness and curiosity will help you let go of judgments, expectations, and other obstacles that keep you from being present.

    Is Mindfulness about trying to stop having thoughts or changing the way I think?

    Mindfulness is not about trying to stop having thoughts or changing your thoughts. Rather, it’s simply about recognizing when you are off in thought (as opposed to actually aware and present to where you are and what you are experiencing) and then coming back to the present. You don’t need to engage with the thoughts. When you notice you are engaging, name the thought, lightly say something like “hello disappointment,” and then imagine setting the thought upon a leaf and watching it float downstream. Let it float gently away as you remain present at the stream’s edge. With regular practice, this kind of mindfulness can actually rewire the brain and make it easier to focus your thoughts where you choose, rather than where they automatically and unconsciously take you. It gets easier, the more you practice. Meditation is a tool that helps immensely with sharpening this skill.

    Mindfulness is a way of thinking and focusing that can help you become more aware of your present experiences. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as noticing the taste of a mint on your tongue and paying attention to the feelings and sensations of these experiences.

    What is meant by Mindfulness Practice?

    Mindfulness is a natural quality that we all have. It’s available to us in every moment if we take the time to appreciate it. When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.

    For example, focusing on the inhale and exhale of your breathing is one way to concentrate on the present moment. Mindfulness involves allowing your thoughts and feelings to pass without either clinging to them or pushing them away. You just let them take their natural course. While practicing mindfulness, you may become distracted by your thoughts and that is okay. The process is about being willing to notice where your thoughts take you and then bringing your attention back to the present. We call it a “practice” because it is something we have to remember to do in order to build muscle memory in order to BE more mindful.

    “Mindfulness is not about being happy. It’s about being present for our experience, whether it’s pleasant or not. When emotions arise, we’re invited to notice them without judgment. Not to cover them up, distract ourselves, or exaggerate them. It’s ok to feel what you feel.”
    ~ Sharon Salzberg

    What is the purpose of Meditation? Is it to have a blank mind?

    In meditation, we’re not trying to get rid of thoughts, but we learn to observe the thoughts as mental events that arise and pass away in the mind. Thoughts are NOT the enemy. We are training the mind in concentration, awareness of what is happening and learning about where our mind goes and who we are. Through the practice of meditation, we are strengthening our ability to direct our attention and awareness – instead of having the mind telling us what to think, how to feel and what to do. Just because you think something – doesn’t mean it’s true!

    My mind wanders all the time or thoughts keep coming up when I’m meditating.

    This is normal! Everyone’s mind does it. It’s your mind’s habit, and in fact, is the nature of the mind. Meditation just helps you to bring awareness to it, because you’re trying to focus on one object (your breath) and you can now see when your mind wanders away from that object. This awareness is what we’re going after! So if you notice your mind wandering, you’re successful. Keep at it, the wandering won’t go away but you’ll learn to be more patient with it and to be able to direct your attention where you want it to go.

    I’m always feeling like I’m doing it (meditating) wrong or wonder whether I’m doing it right.

    Yep, everyone feels this way. You are not doing it wrong. There’s no right way. Just showing up and staying with yourself is doing it right. So keep showing up. And the feeling of uncertainty that’s coming up is the perfect thing to notice for this training.

    I keep feeling like I suck at meditation!

    This, too, is a normal feeling. You don’t suck at it, but everyone feels like they do, because you have difficulty keeping your attention on your breath; you get lost in thought, you get frustrated and you don’t feel as calm as you hoped you would be. So it’s good to work with this feeling too — see that you have some ideal that’s causing you to feel bad about how you’re doing, see that you are feeling disappointment, allow yourself to feel this. Stay with the feeling.

    I get the urge to quit or check on email/social media when I am meditating.

    Many things arise during meditation (thoughts, emotions, feelings, physical sensations, sounds, etc.) and all of them are pretty much normal for everyone who begins a meditation practice. So, when you get an urge to stop the meditation and do something else, notice the urges and sit for a moment or two longer, noticing the urge. The urge/thought/sensations/feeling will most likely go away within 90 seconds. If the urge comes back, sit with the urge – maybe have some curiosity and openness to it and don’t get up. It will go away soon. If it comes back a third time and is causing you to suffer, allow yourself to get up. This is finding the edge between working with discomfort and not overdoing it.