Why Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is not an emotional state, such as being happy or free of anxiety. It is a state of awareness where one is fully present with whatever is happening in this moment, without judging any aspect of the experience. We humans are thinking creatures, our mind is engaged in mental “chatter ” almost every waking moment of the day. Our thoughts arise constantly and automatically, usually without our conscious awareness, yet the nature of our thoughts determines how we feel most of the time. Whether the majority of our experiences are characterised by feelings of contentment or dissatisfaction, and whether we are fully engaged with life or disconnected from it , is determined by the nature of our thoughts. The character of the conversations we have with ourselves engineers our suffering and the mediocrity of our lives in every present moment.
Most of us tend to assume that our ability to feel happy is driven by the events in our lives, such as the people we deal with, the work we do, the state of our health and the objects we own. But is that true? There is no doubt that having good things such as close relationships, a sense of purpose , enjoyable interests, mental challenges, a nice place to live and robust health contributes to wellbeing and life satisfaction. But they don’t make us happy. Even when our life circumstances are excellent , many of us don’t feel happy. We can sit by the ocean or under a tree and and watch the most beautiful sunset or take ourselves off to a favourite holiday destination, and still not feel happy. Our thoughts can make us miserable even in the best of places. Life events, no matter how good, do not protect us from our thoughts. When we are not connected to the present moment, we leave ourselves open to the eccentricities and metamorphosis of our own mind.
Practicing mindfulness and turning our attention to the present moment helps us to become aware of these pointless meanderings. By acknowledging their presence, observing them with curiosity and labelling them for what they are (mental chatter, rumination, worry thoughts, frustrations), it becomes easier to detach from the process or, at the very least, we are able to see how we create our own suffering.
Here’s a simple mindfulness activity for you to do as stated by Jon Kanat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living
If you are feeling tense, then just pay attention to the tension. If you are in pain, then be with the pain as best as you can. If you are criticising yourself then observe the activity of the judging mind. Just watch. Remember, we are simply allowing anything and everything that we experience from moment to moment to be here, because it already is.