Mindfulness in Plain English and How to Practice Mindfulness
By: Divya Darling
June 9, 2020
Simply put, mindfulness is another way of saying being present. So our mindfulness practices vary depending upon what we are being present to.
Here are a few suggestions from the many ways we can practice mindfulness:
- Awareness of breath
- Awareness of feelings
- Awareness of sounds
- Awareness of tastes
- Awareness of seeing
- Awareness of smells
- Awareness of thoughts
These aspects of living can become unconscious. A mindfulness practice helps bring them into conscious awareness.
For someone new to mindful practices, it’s sometimes helpful to start with just focusing on one of these at a time. We have a similar practice at the 6 Senses Retreat where we direct the conscious mind to focus on one sense each day. People who regularly practice mindfulness are able to hold each of these aspects in their awareness simultaneously.
Underpinning all mindful practices is a perspective of openness and curiosity, in other words, nonjudgmental approach. A willingness to just notice whatever is there – with no attachment to it being anything other than what it is. For example, if the breath feels shallow, just notice that. If the body feels tight, just observe that. Be aware of what is, clear of any expectation that it would be anything other than exactly that. This is how we practice mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation is when the element of non-reactiveness is added. Sitting in stillness with your attention on any/all of the list above and noticing without response or reaction. This practice cultivates meta-awareness – awareness of your awareness.
A metaphor that may be useful: imagine yourself sitting down in a theatre about to watch a play. When the curtain opens just watch the stage. The stage is your awareness. Notice what characters come on. Observe with interest and curiosity as they enter the stage, perform their parts, and walk off stage.
To learn about the myriad benefits of mindfulness meditation, read “What is Mindfulness and How Can Mindfulness Help Me?” and “What is MBSR?”.