Mindfulness as a word can be misleading as it does not mean a mind which is filled with thoughts. Instead it refers to present-moment awareness. It is a state in which you are focused on what is happening to you in the now. The focus could be on external events such as sights and sounds, or on your sensations and feelings. In fact most forms of meditation, including Transcendental Meditation (TM) are types of Mindfulness. Mindfulness can also be achieved through Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and the like. Recorded tapes are the most common aid to the practice of Mindfulness.
Here are seven key words and phrases associated with Mindfulness:
- Awareness. The person is fully aware of being in her body, in the moment, now.
- Observation. The individual watches the coming and going of thoughts, feelings, sensations, emotions, moods and external events without holding on to them.
- Presence. The practitioner is fully present in consciousness. The opposite of absence.
- Attention. The person exercises neutral attentiveness to internal and external events.
- Wakefulness. Sometimes ordinary consciousness is little different from waking sleep in which the individual functions on automatic pilot, barely conscious of what is in fact happening. Mindfulness reverses this.
- Non-attachment. The practitioner is no longer attached to thoughts or judgements, allowing them to come and go without becoming ‘sucked in’ to them and thereby losing awareness. It is important to realise that ‘non-attachment’ is not the same as ‘detachment’. While the former simply observes, the latter is a disconnected state.
- Non-judgement. Mindfulness routines work on going with the flow. Judgements about whether one is ‘doing it the right way’ are discarded, as are other critical thoughts.
Judging from the earliest Hindu scriptures Mindfulness disciplines date back at least 3500 years. The earliest known forms entailed control of the breath, still the most widely used Mindfulness approach today.
Here is an excellent 5-minute Mindfulness of the Breath tape from the Free Mindfulness site.