When people hear the word mindfulness, sometimes they think of meditation or great mystical experiences. However, the concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple and ordinary. In this blog, I would like to demystify the concept of mindfulness. I want to make sure you understand that mindfulness is a concept that is readily accessible to everyone. While mindfulness does require patience and practice (just like anything good in life), it does not require decades of discipleship under a famous guru.
In the previous blog, we defined mindfulness with the following four components:
1. To be aware
2. On purpose
3. In the present
4. Without judging
Let’s take a look at each of those definitions in a little more detail. “To be aware” of something simply means to notice something, to observe something, or pay attention to something.
“On purpose” simply means to do something intentionally or deliberately, as opposed to randomly or accidentally. We all notice things when it’s too late or when we have no other choice. However, many times we fail to notice something when we do have a choice. And that’s precisely why minor issues continue to built up over time—and we never even bother to notice them, until they become out of control.
“In the present” means learning to focus on what’s going on in the here and how. That does not mean that the past or future are not important. They are! However, here is one of the great ironies of life: You cannot effectively heal from the past by obsessing about the past, nor can you effectively plan for the future by worrying about the future. Rather, by learning to become more grounded in the present, we are actually in a much better place to then heal from the past as well as plan for the future. If we are not paying attention to what’s going on in the in here and now, we simply fumble from one crisis to the next, constantly reacting to skeletons from the past or phantoms of the future, without having a firm grasp on the reality that is right before our eyes. Perhaps you have heard the old adage: “Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift: And that’s why it’s called the present!”
So to summarize so far, the first three components of mindfulness are all about awareness, and more specifically, intentional awareness of the moment: Learning to deliberately notice, observe, and pay attention to events in the here and now. That’s where mindfulness starts.
Please refer to Dr. Dan Siegel’s website for more information on mindfulness: http://www.drdansiegel.com.
For practical exercises to learn more mindfulness, please refer to my workbook: DBT Skills Workbook for PTSD: Practical Exercises for Overcoming Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.