WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?

Mindfulness is the practice of being present. It is a simple idea but not so easy to achieve. The mind is constantly pulling us to be elsewhere, either remembering the past or ruminating about the future, thinking about another place where we would rather be, judging the person talking to us or thinking about what we will say when they finish. Rarely are we present with what is going on right now.

So as we practice mindfulness and get better at being present, we start to notice things like the sound of the wind blowing through the trees, the beauty of a flower by the side of the road, or the sweet sound of a baby’s laughter. We start to listen to what other people are saying to us and really feeling with them. We start to appreciate what we have in our life right now without longing for a remembered past or fantasizing about a possible future. We become more creative in solving problems and find the humor in situations that don’t seem to have a solution. We become a calmer, more centered and happier person and life becomes an exciting adventure.

A beginner in this practice often experiences boredom, restlessness, racing mind, and the judgment that this practice isn’t getting me anywhere. The reason is the assumption that everything we do has to have some practical purpose, like becoming smarter, more skillful, healthier, or more beautiful. Just sitting and watching one’s thoughts doesn’t seem to be doing any of those things. There is literally “nothing” happening. Many of us spend our time either working or entertaining ourselves. We want to be constantly engaged in activity. So when you just sit still and watch your mind and pay attention to the feelings in your body, it feels really boring. But if you stick with it and don’t give up, something else starts happening and that something is really amazing.

We start to feel a sense of spaciousness and calm. The compulsion to keep filling ourselves up decreases and a feeling of being satisfied with what is happening right now is enough. We are able to be more present in our lives and in our relationships with people. If action needs to be taken, it arises out of the needs of the moment. We can finally find inner peace.