What is Mindfulness?

Written By Sandra Wells, MA (The Institute for Mindful Living)

Mindfulness is a way of learning to relate directly to your own experience with acceptance and an open heart. It is a way of taking charge of your life by awakening your capacity to pay attention, without judgment, moment-by-moment, to the continuous stream of your thoughts, feelings and body sensations.  It is a way of doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you — to systematically and consciously work with your own mind and learn to face the challenges and demands of everyday life with awareness. It is a way to enrich your inner life and connect more deeply with yourself. It is a way to develop sensitivity to all aspects of self: body and mind, heart and soul; to alleviate stress, pain and illness; to restore within yourself a balanced sense of health and well-being.

Mindful practices are a powerful antidote to the unfulfilled hunger for perfection and contentment that pervades our culture and that drives our perpetual distraction, busy-ness, multi-tasking, material consumption, overwhelm, and longing for something we cannot name. To challenge the inherent strength of habitual unawareness takes effort, discipline and dedication. The various practices of meditation are central to actualizing this possibility.

Meditation can be understood as a way of gently coaxing the mind to loosen its grip on preoccupations with the past or the future; an invitation to soften the way the mind has organized itself around the experience of emotions and how it has developed repetitive interpretations of events. Gradually, unskillful habits are revealed, seen clearly and begin to drop away. Delusions about unworthiness, self-importance or fragility fade and the fabrications of the mind can be met with clarity and kindness.

Meditation is not the cessation of thought. With practice, meditation helps to develop a compassionate witness within who can watch thoughts gather like clouds on the horizon while being aware of the whole sky.

 

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