“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
What Exactly is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations
Mindfulness is the full appreciation of the present moment. It’s a way to escape the terrible habit of ceaseless thinking.
As Sam Harris stated “Meditation is the practice if finding this freedom directly, by breaking ones identification with thought and allowing the continuum of experience, pleasant and unpleasant, to simply be as it is.”
Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness are almost indistinguishable in all aspects but one. They both involve bringing our awareness back to the present moment. The only difference is that Zen Meditation involves sitting still on a cushion with your eyes closed, whereas Mindfulness is practiced at any time, in any place, no matter what situation life throws at you.
Mindfulness brings happiness to one’s life because true happiness is obtained through the process experiencing the present moment void of ceaseless thinking.
Why practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness fosters an ability to find fulfillment in the present moment, no matter its nature.
Our modern society is built on our deeply ingrained habit to seek stimulation, which we mistake for happiness. The problem is that stimulation(our version of happiness) is constantly fleeting. Therefore our motivations to be happy are improperly grounded.
We act on the notion that happiness is attained through success and material possessions. But no matter how much stuff we buy or how successful we become, happiness never lasts. The excitement always wears off and we’re left yearning for more.
For this very reason we should embrace the journey towards a more present life. One in which we gain satisfaction from even the most mundane of tasks, solely because we’re able to find awe in the beauty of every moment.
Less Stress, Anxiety, and Depression
The mere action of breaking our habit of non-stop thinking relieves copious amounts of stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety are by-products of thinking about the past or the future.
Once you realize the transitory nature of emotions when living in the present, the previous statement makes much more sense. Thoughts fuel emotions, therefore if we’re not lost in thought then our emotions will disappear within a matter of seconds.
Note: This benefit is so strong that there’s even a widely popular technique called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MSBR) created by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
The root cause of suffering is the tendency to be lost in thought, aka thinking without knowing that we’re thinking. Suffering is never caused by the situation itself, but by our thoughts about it.
When we’re able to witness the present moment in a nonjudgemental way, suffering decreases dramatically.
Increased Focus and Productivity
Interruptions and distractions are detrimental to productivity. Yes, it’s possible to eliminate external distractions to become more productive. But if we want maximum focus and productivity then we must turn inward.
In order to develop laser-like focus, we must first develop the ability to not get distracted by thought. Thoughts carry us away from the present moment, but when we have the ability to not let thoughts foster, our ability to stay focused on the task at hand skyrockets.
Equanimity: mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation
Acquiring equanimity doesn’t mean that emotions won’t arise in your body. No doubt they will. It means that we won’t react to them once they arise. Emotions are transitory, they disappear quickly if we don’t perpetuate them.
By being lost in thought, we perpetuate our emotions. When we stop the endless cycle of thinking our emotional state becomes imperturbable and ability to control our emotions skyrockets.
Ability to Overcome Bad Habits
Addictions control our lives. Thus, the underlying reason why it’s so hard to eat healthy, stay fit, stop being lazy, etc.
The more we practice mindfulness, the less we need stimulation. We can start eating healthier foods by becoming aware of the cravings that arise in our bodies and witnessing them in a nonjudgemental way, as to stop reacting to our cravings.
Sensory Clarity: Not being Lost in Thought
By Sensory Clarity, I’m referring to the ability to perceive reality more clearly.
A common goal is that “I want to live life to the fullest”. Increasing our sensory clarity is a means to do so. It allows us to enjoy even the most mundane aspects of life, by It becoming attuned to the present moment and experience it to for all its beauty and ugliness.
How to be more Mindful
I know that meditation is not for everyone. But if you have an open mind, meditation has the capacity to supercharge your mindfulness abilities.
Otherwise, you have the option to practice mindfulness free from meditation. If done right, this can as powerful as meditation. Therefore I’m going to give you an abundance of examples as to how to practice staying in the moment in daily life situations.
Here’s a general process to bring yourself back to the present moment and find fulfillment in any situation that life throws at you.
- Slowly become aware of the breath.
- Notice any sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, in your body in a nonjudgemental way. Essentially just become aware of the body.
- Become aware of any sounds that enter into your awareness.
- Notice when a thought arises and calmly bring your awareness back to the present moment, by means of any of the processes in the previous 3 steps
- If any emotion arises, simply witness the sensations that come along with it and don’t react to it. It will soon disappear.
Mindful Living: Examples
Feel the water droplets deflecting off your back. Hear the sound of the water rushing out of the shower-head. Feel into the pressure of your feet on the floor of the shower. Is it rough, smooth, cold or hot? Feel into the temperature of the water.
Notice the sensations of pressure on the bottoms of your feet. Feel the release of pressure when you foot comes off the ground, then the feeling of the ground once again. If there’s a breeze, then become conscious of the sensation of the air flowing over your body.
Notice any sounds in your immediate environment. Don’t try to listen for them. Just be mindful of them as they enter your eardrums. Take in the sounds of cars, humming birds, etc.
Become cognizant of any unpleasant feelings of pressure or discomfort in your legs. Don’t judge and react to the sensations, but watch them in an undistracted way.
Eat slowly. Eat Deliberately. Taste every single morsel of food entering your mouth. Let your awareness wander to the plethora of different tastes in your mouth.
Notice the sensations in your stomach. Be mindful of when you’re body tells you that you’re full, then stop eating.
Notice the sensations of warmth radiating from the mug. Get a whiff of the fresh aroma being emitted from the cup. Slowly and deliberately put the mug up to your lips and feel the warm liquid coming in contact with your lips. Become fully aware of the strong taste of the drink.
Notice all the warmth that’s now being dissipated as the liquid enters your throat. Become fully aware of what it tastes like on your tongue. How does it make you feel in your body?
Feel the water coming in contact with your hands. Feel the pressure of your hands against the dishrag and the plate. Become conscious of the temperature of the water. Is it cold, hot, lukewarm?
Notice any sensations in your back that you might feel from bending over to do the dishes. If unpleasant, just become aware of them in a nonreactive way. Smile. Find fulfillment in the mundane.
People love to talk about themselves. They don’t really listen to you, instead they wait for their turn to speak. Being lost in thought about ourselves and only wanting to talk about ourselves has become widespread.
We feel that what we’re saying is more valuable than what the other person is saying. Therefore, truly listening to someone is all that much more valuable. Let them talk about themselves and subdue any thoughts that arise in the present moment. Ask the other person valuable questions about what they’re talking about.
Takeaway: Be mindful when other’s are talking to you. Truly Listen to what they have to say. And when a thought arises, calmly let go of the it and bring your attention back to the contents of the other person’s words.
Allergies can be extremely annoying, we we’re not mindful of them.
Whenever an unpleasant sensation arises, such as an itchy nose, simply watch it in a nonreactive, nonjudgemental way.
If you feel snot running down the inside of your nose then be mindful of the sensations and calmly walk to get a tissue and blow your nose in peace and fulfillment, amidst the chaos of unpleasant sensations overwhelming your senses.
While in the Rain
Walking in the rain doesn’t have to be considered unpleasant. You can turn a perceivably negative situation into a positive one.
Become aware of the sensations of cold raindrops plummeting on your skin. Be totally aware of the sounds of the raindrops hitting the earth beneath you. Internally listen to raindrops hitting the top of your head.
If it’s cold outside, become aware of the frigid temperature around you and don’t react in a neurotic way, trying to feel comfortable.
Feel the water streamlining over your body. Listen to any sounds that may be occurring underneath the water Feel how your body seems to float on the top of the water.
When you stop swimming, stay still or relatively still in the water, notice how the water releases all the tension in your muscles and you have the ability to be totally relaxed.
As you kneel down in the fresh dirt, feel all the sensations of pressure in your hands. Feel the fresh dirt coursing through your fingers. Listen to the sounds of birds chirping. Take in the fresh air. Smile. Feel the sensations of weeds or plants in your fingers.
When anger arises in your body, don’t react to it. Instead, notice the internal sensations of anger that arise in your body. Are you tense? What thoughts are going through your mind? Try to bring yourself back to the present moment and out of the rut of non-stop thinking about why you should be angry.
As you become aware of anger itself you will start to notice that it slowly disappears. There are no catalysts of anger in the present moment.
On a hike
Feel the sensations of pressure on the natural ground surface. Become aware of any muscle soreness that may be occurring in your legs because of hiking up and down hills.
Listen to the birds chirping, the leaves rustling, twigs breaking below your feet, and any other sounds that you may encounter. And do so in an effortless manner, no need to try and listen for any sounds in particular. Let the sounds enter your ear as they arise in the present moment.
Feel the breeze rush against your face and the rest of your skin. Don’t have any thoughts about this breeze. Rather feel how it refreshes you. Feel whatever sensations that come along with it, good or bad.
As you wrap your hands around the mug, feel the warmth radiating outwards into your delicate skin. Notice how the feeling of warmth on your skin brings comfort to you. Waft the aroma of tea up to your nose and take in the combination of scents that enter your nose. Not thinking about them, but rather experiencing them.
When the cup is finally up to your mouth, slowly and deliberately take a sip. Taste every ounce of liquid to the fullest. Notice the plethora of different tastes that enter your mouth.
Finally, observe the feeling of the warm liquid soothing the back of your throat as you swallow your coffee or tea.
Mindfulness while driving can become even safer than regular driving because you have the ability to enhance awareness of your surroundings.
Feel the pressure of your butt on the cushion as you enter your car. Don’t turn any music on, music is just a distraction from the present moment and from having full awareness while driving.
Feel the sensations of pressure in your hands on the steering wheel. Become completely aware of your sense of sight. Notice everything that’s in your rearview mirrors. Notice any cars to your left or right, or both. Keep your awareness on any street lights so that you immediately know when to go.
As your driving, notice each and every street sign that you pass. What are the implications of every single one? How many of them apply to you? You don’t realize how many street signs that you pass without even taking mention to because you’ve already driven on that street before and know the rules.
Notice any sounds around you. Hear the sounds of any diesel trucks as they start from a stationary position. Hear the sounds of your tires on the concrete. Roll the windows down so that you can hear even better if the weather pertains.
Whenever someone cuts you off or does something stupid, focus on the sensations of anger in your body and let the negative emotions pass by without a trace.
Before you start your jog, takes a few deep breaths, bringing your awareness to the rise and fall of the breath rather than in the continuous cycle of thinking and being identified with thought.
As you start jogging, feel the how the wind refreshes you like a a glass of water after a day in the sun. Become completely aware of the sensations of pressure under your feet. Notice any unpleasant sensations that start arising in your legs or feet as you start jogging. Don’t stop immediately and try to make them feel better, just let them happen without spiraling into a realm of endless thinking about them.
Become attuned to your visual field. Notice any trees, mountains, sunrise/sunset, green grass, or anything else that you could take in while running. Really appreciate everything around you and find fulfillment in the conscious awareness of it all.
As we open our eyes and awaken from a deep sleep there’s a short amount of time where we’re in the present moment without any thoughts racing through our heads. Then, a few moments later we’ve already started into our trance of endless thinking.
Don’t let this be the case. When you wake up, notice any thoughts that arise and bring your awareness back to the present moment. Notice the stillness that may be. If applicable, become aware of the tones of the chirping birds. As you roll out of bed, notice the first sensations of pressure in your feet as you take your first step of the day.
Take a deep breath, and a fully conscious breath, because it’s the start of a new day.
As you pick up your toothbrush notice the feeling of pressure on your fingertips. Notice any sounds of either an electric toothbrush, or the sounds of the toothbrush scrubbing your teeth.
Taste the toothpaste in your mouth, what’s is its flavor on your tongue?
Going to Sleep
Thoughts are arguably the most detrimental component of not being able to fall asleep.
In order to fall asleep faster, notice the sensations of breathing. The rise and fall of the breath, the air exiting your nostrils. Feel the softness of the pillow on the side or back of your head. Notice how gravity seems to sink you down into your mattress.
A great exercise to do once your enter you bed for the night is to scan down your body focusing on letting go of all tension from your head to your toes. By the end of this exercise your body will be ready to go to sleep.
Cooking a Meal
Notice the feelings of the food in your hands. Hear the sizzling of the food on the pan or grill. Listen to the sound of the water coming out of the faucet as you wash your hands.
Take a deep breath in through your nose, smelling the aroma of your kitchen on the in breath. Then relax on the out-breath with complete awareness of the present moment.
Mindfulness has the power to increase the level of fulfillment in your daily life dramatically. It can be used to find happiness in even the most mundane of tasks.
Mindfulness is a way to truly appreciate everything that life has to offer. A way to live life to the fullest.
I see myself as a pragmatic person. The phrase “Live life to the fullest” doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a means to do so. Mindfulness is that mean. It’s a practical, no nonsense practice to live life to the fullest. That’s why I’m so enthusiastic about spreading the word of mindfulness to others.
I hope you got loads of value from this article. So, what are your thoughts about mindfulness? I would love to hear them in the comments below. Have you practiced mindfulness before? Is this whole concept of mindfulness new to you? All thoughts and ideas are welcome on this blog. Please comment and share this post with others if you enjoyed.