How to be mindful
When people talk about Mindfulness they say things like “being in the present”, “having an accepting attitude” or “feeling in balance”. I’m going to try to explain Mindfulness in a more practical way, starting with this post.
In today’s society we get so caught up in our daily routines, we get into an automatic pilot state – a state of having our minds anywhere but the present moment. Caught up in thoughts about the past or future, something we said, or someone else did, stressing about things we have to do later, or just too busy with our smartphones to see what is going on around us.
So what’s next? How can we turn off this automatic pilot state, or how I like to call it, the DIY mode. Two important basics: directing attention and creating an open and an accepting attitude. I will explain these two basics some more.
Directing attention is all about being aware of all the information that comes in via your senses, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations, from moment to moment. To direct attention to this kind of information, the breath is used as a tool. Directing attention also includes having the ability to recognize distractions and stay focussed on the subject in the here and now.
Open and accepting
The second basic is developing an open and accepting attitude for thoughts, feelings and physical sensations. To be more specific, this means allowing all information, even the unpleasant, in without judging, pushing away, or trying to change it. This attitude is the opposite from what we are used to doing. We are used to the DIY mode. For example, when something comes up we judge, analyse, evaluate, resolve, perform, tests, plan, set goals, change and have a fixed, limited attention. This DIY mode is suitable for practical, technical and intellectual tasks, but is so ingrained that it’s also automatically turned on when experience feelings or emotional problems. However, emotional problems needs a totally different approach. A non-judgmental, allowing, non-striving, mild, accepting, understanding based on direct experience and a wider attention. When emotions play a role this attitude is more suitable than the DIY mode.
How to practice these basics and new attitude;
Take 5 minutes every day for the next week to experiment. Direct your attention to your senses, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations by using your breath. Don’t try to change the past, follow your breath as it is. You can pick any moment threw out the day.
Ask your self these 3 questions:
What am I thinking?
What kind of information is coming in through my senses (hearing, taste, touch, seeing)?
What kind of emotions or physical sensations can I identify?
I’m curious what you notice after a week of experimenting with this new attitude. Any changes? Feel free to share anything you have experienced in a comment below.
More about how to be and live Mindful in the next post.