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Mindful or Mind Full?

Let’s Talk About Mindfulness!

There is greater communication and information on the topic of mindfulness in books, groups, and social media outlets. Yet, there are still many that do not understand nor can really describe just what mindfulness means or what is needed to achieve it. Our world is filled with so much to see. Most of us are guilty of walking right by that beauty. Instead, we choose to look down with our eyes glued to our phone screen.

Mindfulness calls for us to look up and out to see the splendor that is all around us.

According to Brown & Ryan (2003), mindfulness can be defined as “A mental state of calm awareness in the present moment, which is demonstrated by acceptance, openness and curiosity regarding your thoughts and feelings, rather than making judgments about them.” The key words to remember are calmness, acceptance, openness, curiosity and embracing a non-judgmental mindset. Imagine how our experience in the world and with those around us could be enhanced by infusing these simple words into our daily lives.

There is a Buddhist principle that states, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.” This is the principle of mindfulness in action. When we experience a “trigger” we often have a “gut-level” response to that trigger. It is in this space that we can decide to either feed that gut-level response or choose to react differently.

We do have a choice in how we respond.

That choice is rooted in the practice of mindfulness. We can practice mindfulness in action. We can react to those “second arrows” with a calm mind and non-judgmental detachment instead of fighting, running or freezing in the moment.

I can appreciate the popular quote from William James that describes this focusing of our attention. James says that “The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgement, character and will.” This “bringing back” of our attention is a powerful exercise. Mindfulness gives us a choice in our responses through the act of focused attention.

Mindfulness is an Action!

Training our attention is an essential part of well-being. It really is a way of being in the world wholeheartedly, rather than allowing the world to overtake us. Being mindful is purposeful and open-minded. We focus on our present moment with our body, mind and emotions.

There are many benefits to the practice of Mindfulness:

1. Better emotional regulation

2. Decreased reactivity and increased response flexibility-this supports us in developing more resiliency in the face of obstacles!

3. Less Impulsiveness

4. Better emotional handling of our past experiences

5. More noticeable future orientation-this establishes a more positive and optimistic outlook on life!

So how can you start? Here are the five simple steps that I use when I practice Mindfulness in Action:

1. Focus your attention on your breath

2. When your attention starts to wander from the breath, accept this wandering, as it is a natural part of the practice

3. Acknowledge your current focus of attention, I usually say to myself, “I am thinking right now.”

4. Redirect your attention back to your breath

5. Repeat as often as necessary!

Remember that mindfulness is a practice. You will improve the redirection of thoughts back to the breath as you keep at it.

Another way to practice mindfulness is when you are engaging in your daily life activities; simply stop and ask yourself….

What do I hear, see, smell, taste and feel? Bring your attention to the moment!

How does mindfulness show up in your life?

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