On Mindfulness

South Africa

Like many people, I find the word ‘mindfulness’ rather confusing and misleading. It has nothing to do with the mind being full, yet this is how the word comes across. Different people, books and websites have different meanings of what mindfulness is. A book on psychology will define it differently to a book on religion. So, instead of trying to pick the right definition from the many out there, I’ve fused a few of my favourites to come up with: ‘Mindfulness’ means bringing your attention to the here-and-now, with openness, receptiveness and no judgement.

Let’s break this definition down. Firstly, mindfulness is the conscious experience of bringing our attention to the here-and-now. To what is happening at any given moment in the present. Secondly, it is about paying attention to and not thinking about the present moment. Thirdly, there is a particular attitude that holds this awareness. One of openness, receptiveness and no judgement.

We experience mindfulness through our five senses. Each of our senses is at work at any given moment, and it is through mindfulness that we become aware of them. To help explain, consider when last did you hear the sounds in the environment while you ate your lunch? Or, when last were you aware of smells (however faint) in the room while you got dressed in the morning? In a mindful state, we become conscious of these and many more of our senses. We get to experience every moment through our five senses. We are aware of the smells, sights, tastes, feelings and sounds that exist, in unison, at any given moment.

You may be wondering at this stage, ‘what’s the point of this?’ Let me give you my personal take on the matter.

While I am still relatively new to the practice of mindfulness, I have already started to see its benefits. Mindfulness has helped me form new habits which have grounded me to be more present. It has helped me quieten my mind, allowing me to focus on what’s important, such as my goals. I’ve been able to manage my emotions better. I’ve learned self-control, and I appreciate things more. I am far from perfect and have a long road of continuous development ahead of me. But, mindfulness has already helped me across many areas of my life.

I’ve also learned to understand my mind better. Before, I never thought about what was going on around me or inside my head. I was on autopilot, more focused on the next thing I had to do. Or dwelling in the past. Now, I am more aware of what is happening around me. Now. In the present moment. After all, this is the only moment we fully experience at any point in our lives.

Is it easy? Not a chance; in the beginning, it can be quite a challenge. But, with practice, it becomes easier. And all it takes is a couple of minutes in the beginning. Nothing fancy. My starting point was merely noticing my breath. And, with time, I built my experience each day at a time. With openness, receptiveness and no judgement.

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