Making the Most of Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is nonjudgmental awareness of our inner experience in the present moment.  It has a particularly delightful quality in that it doesn’t require us to change our experience or force our mind to go blank, which is a common misconception about mindfulness.  Rather, mindfulness is about putting attention on current experience, bringing awareness to each moment.  This helps us become more conscious of the thoughts, feelings, sensations, beliefs, and memories that can affect us without our awareness. 

How does mindfulness help create connectivity between mind, body, heart, and spirit?

Mind, body, heart, and spirit make up our Whole Self.  Typically, we tend to act more from one or two aspects more than others.  For some, the mind takes the lead through thoughts, ideas, plans, etc.  Others are most aware of their emotional experiences, which guides their thoughts and actions.  Still others quickly tap into their physical sensations or spiritual self.  Through mindfulness, we become aware of which aspect comes easiest while becoming more in touch with those that feel more disconnected. 

How do I know if I’m being mindful?

You’ll know you’re being mindful if you’re aware of your present experience.  Mindfulness may draw attention to how fast your mind is moving.  You might become aware that one emotion gives way to another, such as irritability revealing sadness, disappointment, or fear.  Mindfulness may also reveal patterns of self-protection, such as thoughts shielding you from being full aware of your emotions or keeping you disconnected from your body.  

How do I create a meaningful mindfulness practice?

Here are some tips to help you build a meaningful and consistent mindfulness practice:

1.      Find a quiet place & minimize distractions

Find a quiet place where you can minimize distractions.  Turn your phone off and ask roommates or loved ones not to disrupt you.

2.      Set a timer. 

However long you choose to make your mindfulness practice, you may find it helpful to set a time. This allows you to minimize the impulse to check how much time has passed.

3.      Start short and often. 

Begin with a brief amount of time to be mindful, perhaps just a few minutes.  The practice will be easier to commit to and you’ll notice more benefit if you’re able to commit to 5 minutes of daily mindfulness rather than one long session a once a month.  Gradually increase your time in mindfulness as you gain more comfort in your practice.

4.      Explore different times of day for your mindfulness practice. 

There’s no right time to practice mindfulness. Some prefer to practice mindfulness in the evening to quiet the body and mind and be eased into a good night’s sleep.  Others find that a few minutes of mindfulness in the morning brings increased consciousness and vitality to the start of the day.  For others, including mindfulness during a mid-day break can bring clarity, authenticity, and renewal to their work and interactions.

5.      Sit in a comfortable position.   

Contrary to popular images of mindfulness practices, sitting cross-legged is not necessary.  It’s best to pick a position so you’re comfortable and alert during your practice.  The hope is to be able to remain relatively still without being so relaxed that you fall asleep!

6.      Set an intention.

Set a basic intention for your mindfulness practice.  For example, your intention might be to become more aware of your thoughts, the physical sensations in your body, access your emotions, or connect to your breath.  Start simple.  The intention is meant to give a broad purpose to your practice, not to have a certain outcome. 

7.      Be gentle and self-compassionate.

Discouragement can get in the way of creating a meaningful mindfulness practice, often based on a mis-guided assumption that success means having a clear mind or particular outcome.  Remember that mindfulness is all about awareness, not self-judgment or trying to be a certain way.