Mindfulness is conscious awareness. It is a form of redirected focus or controlled attention where you become aware of your environment, if not your triggers. And so if you ask, what is the practice of mindfulness? To explain it simply, mindfulness is observation without judgment.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the brainchild of mindfulness in medicine, defines Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as using meditation to cultivate conscious awareness of one’s experience in a non-judgmental or accepting manner. But he best puts it in his Psych Alive interview:
[Mindfulness is a] kind of feeling sense, in a way of feeling ourselves into our experience from moment to moment to moment.Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness seems to be a certain type of mental training that just the thought of it is so vague it overwhelms you. But you may be surprised that stillness is not always the prerequisite to mindfulness. So, read on and see how you actually are faring well!
1. Doing household chores
Oh, the mundane. It could be doing the laundry and dishes, folding clothes, gardening, or doing your xx-step skincare routine. The mundane has a lot to teach us. It opens up our inherent gift of observation.
Your body may be moving repetitively, but your mind is working, whether it’s related to the task or not. When done routinely, you notice the changes. Likewise, you discover the best approaches to accomplish it at the desired time.
Repetition brings stasis. Certainly, stasis could be boring. But it is the beginning of transcendence.
If you are curious about how mundanity can be transcendental, you may want to check out the short film I made, which is an experimental simulation of a meditative journey.
When you let go of what no longer serves you, you give space for something new. Decluttering allows you to be present and recognize the feelings around a certain task.
When you get rid of stuff that no longer brings you joy (hello, Marie Kondo), you become consciously aware of the feelings surrounding those items. Nostalgia is good if it becomes a tool for self-reflection.
Paying attention to the feelings that resurface while decluttering is like putting them in the spotlight. We revisit them and observe how it feels in our body. There is a feel-good process that starts with observation, then focused attention, and finally, a release.
3. Walking your dog
You become aware of your neighborhood when you walk your dog. You observe the path that your dog walks on, but at the same time, you familiarize yourself with your environment. You are alert of oncoming cars, or sometimes you memorize the path.
There could also be sights of shrubs and flowers around the neighborhood. If walking the dog is a routine, you begin to notice if those shrubs are growing, or when those flowers bloom. And you will also notice how these plants interact with the sun. This “stop and smell the roses” gesture is the practice of mindfulness.
4. Driving and commuting
Dr. Zinn defines mindfulness as paying attention at the moment, on purpose, non-judgmentally, as if your life depended on it. And that is exactly what you’re doing when you’re driving. You fully activate your senses.
When you encounter a roadblock, you hit the brakes or you honk. But you must let it go because you need to focus on the road ahead. You have an anchor. And just like the idea of being careful on the road, the practice of mindfulness is focusing on what matters.
Similar to driving, your daily commute allows you to be hit by a few distractions. You are in a different environment, and you are invited to stay focused, if not alert. You then tune in to the surroundings, i.e., new faces, blossoming flowers, broken roads, and other stimuli. Especially when traveling alone in a foreign land, sometimes you get lost, but you tune in to signposts.
5. Ignoring a nasty comment
…or not answering emails during time off.
Choosing to ignore is actually a response. Certainly, the practice of mindfulness teaches us to respond, never react.
The practice of mindfulness leads to self-regulation and empathy. When you make that choice to ignore perhaps a seemingly offensive comment online, you’re actually suspending judgment. You disengage.
Where could it be coming from? Perhaps from the maturity to let go of being right. But not all the time. You could just be observing or thinking of a response, or you just don’t respond at all. The ability to take comments with a grain of salt is the result of mindfulness practice.
Not answering emails outside work hours, for example, brings you to a self-aware state of knowing what aligns with your goals. This could also mean self-respect, and honoring yourself. Taking a step back before you execute your choice is mindfulness in itself.
Consequently, being observant of your thoughts strengthens your intuition. When you are connected to your intuition, it opens up your inner sense of wisdom. As a result, it makes you less reactive; only responsive to social discussions.
6. Asking for an advice
Asking for another person’s opinion before you go all out with your top-of-mind response suggests your openness to see things from another perspective. Awareness of your limitations is a mindfulness practice.
This means that you are humble and open. It’s not that you are not fully connected to your own divine wisdom. But it’s exactly having that wisdom that you’re not always right. It means you will act, all things considered. That’s mindfulness at work.
The practice of mindfulness
Mindfulness is not a technique, but a way of being.
Mindfulness may sound counterintuitive for busy people. But the truth is, when you just pause and observe, your soul will tell you what to do.
Mindfulness is equanimity at work, and peace in a tangible form. It is allowing awareness and wisdom to work together. As a result, it helps us overcome self-sabotaging thoughts.
The list above could be ways you never thought you’re being mindful. So if you’re doing any of those, give yourself a pat on the back, you’re already doing it! If you would like to practice further, notice how you are as you do these tasks. Check in with your body. Shift into your thought bubble and observe what’s in there. You’re doing great, and next thing you know you’re calmer than before. You’re welcome! /highfive!
If you are still interested in mindfulness, check out this video by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD:
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