What is mindfulness? Simply put, it means to be intentionally 100% present, right here, right now. It means paying attention in a particular way, without any judgment at all. I love reminding my students “if you don’t judge, you cannot get frustrated.” What a simple concept, but very powerful – if you don’t pass judgment, you can’t feel upset, angry or irritated about something. Let that thought sink in for a moment…
Mindfulness has been studied for years and has proven benefits, such as lowered perception of pain, stress, anxiety and depression. It improves your overall experience of life, and can create a sense of peace and calm. You can do this anytime during the day – stop, and pay attention without judgment to what you are doing in that moment. If you are driving and waiting at a stop light, feel the coolness and smoothness of the steering wheel, watch someone walk by you without placing any judgment on them, notice the shape and texture of your own hands, etc.
So how do people discover Mindfulness and its benefits? It’s been interesting for me to ask people. Here are some discoveries I’ve made:
- A young friend of mine who is in university has discovered mindfulness at her early age through skydiving. The first time she jumped out of a plane solo, she looked at the sunset and thought to herself how beautiful it is and “this may be the last sunset I’ll ever see”. She skydives every chance she gets, not for the adrenaline rush, but to experience the peace and appreciation of life. She says skydiving has shown her what mindfulness is and has given her the peace in her life that she was searching for. I congratulate her for finding this at such a young age!
For me, mindfulness was discovered in two phases. First, doing tai chi brought me a sense of present-awareness and peace, then, living through the diagnosis and treatment of cancer really solidified true mindfulness for me. Nothing really stops time like a shocking or traumatic experience.
- An acquaintance of mine felt he hit rock-bottom in his life, where everything seemed to be going wrong and against him. One day he looked himself in the mirror and decided this wasn’t any way he wanted to live, decided to change his outlook, and discovered mindfulness through my discussions with him. Practicing mindfulness every day has helped him turn his life around.
- A co-worker of mine simply came across mindfulness and adopted it. Nothing was really wrong in his life, but he enjoys life so much more now and finds himself very resilient to things that bother other people. He also meditates, but mindfulness is the practice that has made his life even better.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, my favourite author is Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has lots of great books and CDs.