In the moment that we notice, lies the potential for change.
Mindfulness is about noticing, paying attention, and being aware.
Mindfulness can mean observing the world around us. When we are mindful, we notice a beautiful sunset, inhale the smell of a flower, listen to moving music, feel a cool breeze, and savor the taste of food. We use all of our senses to notice what is going on. We look into the eyes of the people we love, and listen closely to what they are saying.
Mindfulness can also be about an inner focus: noticing our own thoughts and emotions, and whether we are paying attention to the negative or the positive, the important or the unimportant. When we are tuned into what is going on within us, we might notice that our energy levels are low and see that it is time to re-charge. We might become aware that we are spending too much time on work or social media, and neglecting the people right in front of us.
In our busy world with countless distractions, too often we become so absorbed by the virtual world that we forget to look up and notice. We are happier when we connect with others, so plan a face-to-face meeting with a friend, or get together with family, and focus on them. Pleasure is added when we anticipate a fun activity, or recall a fun time in the past.
There are meditations designed to increase mindfulness, like this walk along the beach video (24:41) from Jason Stephenson. But there is a difference between the two terms even though sometimes they are used synonymously. While very helpful for meditation and deep breathing (and all the building blocks of positive shift), mindfulness is really about being aware of the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote that mindfulness means “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
A Mindfulness Exercise
Listen to a CD of the sounds of ocean waves, while imagining all the sensations of standing on an ocean beach, surrounded by blue sky, green palm trees, and the sweet scent of colorful flowers. Imagine feeling the warmth of the sun, a gentle breeze, and the sand beneath your feet. As you touch on all the senses, feel your connection with the world. Inhale deeply and stretch up, while imagining you are filling up with hope, peace, serenity, and calm. As you slowly exhale, reach toward your toes while you let go of all tensions and worries.
Tools to become more mindful:
- A method to remind yourself to be present is planned pauses, an exercise from Susan Susanka described at Take Back Your Brain.
- Review the mindfulness guide at Zen Habits.
- Mindfulness (pdf) at Getselfhelp.co.uk
- 5 Strategies to Live More Fully in the Present Moment from Fulfillmentdaily
Learn more at the Positive Shift Happens Toolkit