What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness skills have emerged as an important focus of several empirically supported treatments – DBT, mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy for depression, and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) are effective treatments that are all based in mindfulness. The roots of mindfulness practice are in the contemplative practices common to both eastern and western spiritual disciplines and to the emerging scientific knowledge about the benefits of “allowing” experiences rather than suppressing or avoiding them.

How do you describe mindfulness? Mindfulness in its totality has to do with the quality of awareness that a person brings to everyday living; learning to control your mind, rather than letting your mind control you. Mindfulness as a practice directs your attention to only one thing, and that one thing is the moment you are living in.

You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere. Many people choose to dedicate time each day to practicing mindfulness and watching their mind. You might also find yourself in a moment of mindfulness when:

  • You walk through a park and you actually walk through the park. What does that mean? It means you let yourself “show up” in the park. You walk through the park aware of your feelings about the park, or your thoughts about the park, or how the park looks, or the sensation of each foot striking the pavement. This is different than taking a walk in the park and not “showing up” – instead, walking through the park while you are distracted by thoughts of what you’ll have for lunch, or the feelings towards a friend with whom you just argued, or worries about how you’re going to pay this month’s bills.
  • You eat dessert and notice every flavor you are tasting, instead of eating the dessert while having a conversation and looking around the room to see who you know. If you’re being mindful, you’re not thinking about “Is it good or bad to have dessert?” You’re just really having dessert.
  • Having gotten free of your anxiety or self-consciousness, you dance to music and experience every note, instead of wondering if you look graceful or foolish.
  • Thinking about someone you love or someone you hate, you pay attention to exactly what your love or your hate feels like. You’re not caught up in justifying the love or hate to yourself; you’re just diving into the experience, with full awareness that you’re diving in.

When you recognize the moment, what it looks like, feels like, tastes like, sounds like – you are being mindful. Further, mindfulness is the process of observing, describing, and participating in reality in a non-judgmental manner, in the moment and with effectiveness. At the same time, mindfulness is the window to acceptance, freedom, and wisdom.