There is no mystery to mindfulness. It simply means to be focused on the present moment. To be aware and engage with what’s happening right now.
Have you ever been absorbed in Sudoku, a good book or film, a letter you were writing or sung your heart out as you lose yourself in a song- then you have experienced mindfulness. This state of being totally in the moment, or being in a state of flow (lessons to come).
Kids are great role models of how to be in the moment. Watch a young child as he plays, he’s not thinking about what happened yesterday, or who he is going to annoy later that day. He is simply absorbed in what he is doing. When he’s upset, he yells and cries- nothing else matters except for what upset him. He will have a cry and then let it go, the upsetting situation is gone and forgotten.
“I vividly remember spending hours as a child, deep in a pile of sand with match box cars and Tonka trucks racing over the earth, hours would pass and I would still be engrossed in what I was doing. I was in the moment and nothing else matter but how high I was going to make that truck jump. Oh to be 6 again and a king of mindfulness.”
You can become mindful at any moment. You can do it right now. Stop everything you are doing. Focus on what’s happening around you. Take a breathe and just observe how you are feeling.
Does all this seem a bit pointless? How can this approach be of any value? Let me explain.
As humans, we possess the ability to think back on past events and to think about the future, to plan ahead. As well as thinking about what things are happening, we can also think about: things that did and didn’t happen, things that might happen and things that may never happen.
This amazing potential is not always a blessing. Too often our thoughts can trap you, trap you in the past and trap you in the future. This leads us to unease, stress, sadness and if ignored mental illness.
What is the result of these thought patterns? There is no time to experience what is actually happening right now, when it really matters. You are distracted by what could happen next week or what you did wrong last week.
Guess what, even when nothing much is happening, we are still thinking. Rather than being aware of what is happening, we get caught thinking about what is or is not happening.
Here is a very simple explanation of how mindfulness helps to become aware of thinking and emotion and ultimately, become more creative and flexible in our mindset.