There is beauty and richness in the present moment even when things are moving fast. Mindfulness has a rich and textured capacity to influence the unfolding of our lives in magical ways. Mindfulness has been practiced to alleviate human psychological and emotional suffering (distress) for over 2500 years, primarily in the form of meditation. Western psychotherapy is quite new by comparison. Mindfulness meditation is a well-developed practice, refined over centuries.
Mindfulness meditation creates deep and positive psychological changes that promote insight and sustained focused attention. Originally known as Insight meditation, mindfulness practice allows us to observe how our mind works. It’s like a headlight on a boat, illuminating only what is caught in the beam and being aware of the barnacles stuck on the hull. In therapy, barnacles are the sticky issues that hijack our attention-space and block us off from living our best life.
Three types of Mindfulness, focused attention, open hearted-observing, and loving-nonjudgmental kindness. Mindfulness is really attention regulation practice. It’s about knowing when thoughts have wandered off, noting where they went and returning to present moment experience and the task at hand.
Formal and Informal Mindfulness practices are important because it helps us see the richness of life by being fully present in all of our waking moments. A simple starting point to Mindfulness practice is to incorporate an attitude of open-hearted, non- judgmental kindness; cultivated by the stance of becoming an inner observer to your own experiential presence.
Jon Kabat-Zinn is a medical physician, professor emeritus and Mindfulness guru runs a Mindfulness clinic that treats people who suffer from elevated stress, chronic pain and illness defines Mindfulness as paying attention in a particular way on purpose in the present moment and non-judgmentally. Zinn states that the benefits of Mindfulness are immense contingent upon the deliberate and consistent practice of setting aside a time during the day for moments of relative peace and quiet.
The more systematically and regularly people practice, the more the power of Mindfulness will grow and work for you. The point is, when you begin to pay attention in this way your relationship to things change and you actualize a new sense of calmness, self-confidence, inspiration, happiness and creativity.
Incidentally, the word practice does not mean a rehearsal or perfecting a skill so that we can put it to use at some other time. Rather, in this context, practice means “being in the present moment on purpose.” The means and end of Mindfulness are the same. We are not trying to get somewhere else, only working at being where we already are and being here fully. By the way it is formal and informal Mindfulness practices that enable the individual to develop an uncanny ability to have confident, calm, clear and compassionate dealings with yourself and others.
Nevertheless, let me take a minute to define the differences between formal and informal Mindfulness practices. Formal Mindfulness is allowing ourselves to be intentional about dwelling in silence and stillness for 10, 20, 30 or 45 minutes a day focusing on the breathing and sensations in the body. Informal Mindfulness is remembering to practice Mindfulness behaviors in our waking moments. We learn to navigate through the ups and downs and storms of the mind and body.
We learn to be aware of our fears and emotional pain, yet feeling stabilized and empowered by our connection to something deeper within ourselves. Informal Mindfulness is the ability to be on your feet noticing what you are doing while you are doing it rather than reverting to the auto pilot mode of thinking.
Some examples of informal Mindfulness behaviors can be practiced by Mindfully taking out the garbage, Mindfully eating, Mindfully walking, Mindfully driving, Mindfully cooking—and the list goes on. The richness of Mindfulness or present moment experiencing is the richness of life itself.
However, too often people live in the domain of auto-pilot mode and let their preconceived beliefs about what they “know” prevent them from seeing things as they really are which in truth is the richness of life. When the mind is dominated by judgment, self-blame, dissatisfaction, and worry or become kantankerous in your relationships that is a sign of unwillingness to accept things as they really are, whether you like them or not.
The human mind has a strong tendency to reject things as they are when it comes to pain, dilemmas or grief. As Einstein pointed out, this locks us in to an identification with our separateness and such a view can cut us off from our ability to see clearly and to heal just when we need it most. What most of us feel is overwhelmed, fragmented and driven. Interestingly enough, Socrates said “Know Thyself” in a famous speech at Athens. A student challenged him by asking “you say that, but do you really know yourself?” Socrates replied, no, but I know something about this not knowing. On the whole, as you embark upon the practice of Mindfulness practices you will come to know something for yourself about your own not knowing. For this reason, adopting a beginner’s mind approach to Mindfulness allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of expertise, which too often thinks it knows more than it does.
Consequently, we tend to take the ordinary for granted and fail to grasp the extra ordinariness of the ordinary by seeing the richness of the present moment by nourishing beginner’s mind as a Mindfulness practitioner. Without doubt Mindfulness is not the answer to all of life’s problems but it will allow your problems to be seen clearly through the lens of a clear mind.
In summary, let me remind you that Mindfulness is regulating your emotions and bringing your awareness and your attention to the very present moment and by doing so you literally become more awake. So often when we run errands or go shopping and feel impelled to rush from one place to the other on auto-pilot mode until we get it all done. This is exhausting, anxiety provoking even depressing because of the monotony of living life in the same old ways.
Mental health researchers and psychotherapist’s understand the basic truth that the human mind craves something new. In practicing formal or informal Mindfulness and bringing present moment awareness to routine tasks makes living more full and more real. The fact that no one ever taught you how to do this or told you that it is worth doing is immaterial. When you are ready to begin this path, it finds you.
If you are interesting in Mindfulness treatment and therapy please call my office or click to the right of this page to schedule an appointment.
Office appointment schedule is Monday through Friday 10:00am to 6:00pm and Saturday 11:00am to 2:00pm. (Online Counseling available).
Olufemi (Femi) Sharp
For an appointment 816.665-3003