What are you thinking about right now?
No, seriously. What’s on your mind?
Well, that’s where you are. And that is mindfulness in a nut shell.
Your mind directs your life similarly to how your focus while driving directs a car. (Ever had distractions to the right or the left and your car started to veer that way?) I suspect that when you recognized that cause and effect pattern, you made your choices accordingly. (Most of the time, anyway)
Mindfulness is a calling to awareness, I.e. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? What seems to be occurring around you?
The concept of mindfulness makes no mandates or guarantees about what’s next but the likely result is that you will make more conscious choices about what you are now more aware of.
I started by asking you what you are thinking; however, awareness of your thoughts is only one aspect of what you can be aware of. Here’s an exercise to help you better hone in on that distinction:
Take a breath from your diaphragm (think lower torso beneath your chest). Notice how your abdomen rises. Doesn’t matter how much or little or what it does in comparison to your chest rising, just notice it. From that place, check in to how you are feeling or how your experience changed.
What I just guided you to do was to place your awareness in your body rather your brain/ head (which we associate with the mind). Try spending time intentionally focused in each area (torso and then head). Can you feel the difference? Personally, when I am focused on my abdomen, I feel more centered and grounded within myself. When I am “in my head,” I feel less attached to what is actually happening as opposed to the stories and thoughts in my mind. It’s like my head is detached from my body functioning in a different world. Back when I was an intern, I had a supervisor who would joke with me about being able to see the “wheels” turning in my head whenever I was deep in thought. At those times, I was more focused on whatever train of thought was in my mind than being present to what was actually happening around me.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present, non-judgmentally.” He adds various adjectives to the way that the awareness is executed and that’s important eventually; however, I have found that it helps to cultivate your ability to be intentionally aware before adding on other conditions that may feel frustrating to achieve without practice.
The mind is powerful beyond measure but to use it as such deliberately and effectively, you have to start somewhere. Mindful awareness is the equivalent “wax on, wax off” of the Karate Kid’s training. A foundation of mindfulness builds the skills and muscles needed for you to learn to effectively and efficiently harness the power within.
About The Author:
Alanna Hay is the founder of Naturalanna Says, a coaching and personal development brand. Alanna is a licensed clinical social worker, a certified professional life coach and an author.
She works with young professionals to help them more consciously use their minds and emotions to create lives that they enjoy. In addition to being a contributing author on JustUsBeing.com, she can be found on Instagram, YouTube and at NaturalannaSays.com.