Mindfulness is a word that is becoming more and more familiar to the general public. And I’m glad the word is being used so much; it bodes well in a world that is full of so much violence and heartache. A mindful mind helps relieve suffering because it is a practice of noticing what “is” but without the addition of judgment of good or bad etc. Think of a time when you’ve done something that physically hurt, but rather than tense up and think “this sucks!” you somehow remained calm and found that the pain was not as bad as you would’ve typically experienced it. That was a moment of spontaneous mindfulness. We suffer when we are attached to things being “good” instead of “bad.” Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer, Ram Dass, etc. all state that we suffer when we do not accept the current moment as it is . . . in other words, we suffer when we are not mindful. This is important to understand.
It’s important to become acquainted with mindfulness and the role it can play in your life. It’s also important that you have an accurate understanding of what it means, and how your unique personality can cultivate it. For some, creativity is a path to mindfulness. For others, martial arts, meditation, focused curiosity and asking certain contemplative questions throughout the day is helpful in cultivating mindfulness.
Regardless of how you cultivate mindfulness, you’ll find that it starts to show up outside of whatever practice you use to cultivate it. In the beginning, you’ll feel that flow-state, sometimes called metacognition, in small flashes, then with more practice, it’ll become more familiar and longer lasting.
Mindfulness mind practices
Like anything in life, we don’t just turn on mastery of mindfulness. Instead, we start with some concrete practices, then gradually move towards mastery. This is in no way an exhaustive list. You may find other basic starting blocks, and that is just fine. The idea is to start where you are. Here are some practices that you can start with as you begin to explore your own self-awareness:
Meditation is a mindfulness practice in and of itself. It is important to note that the idea of meditation is NOT to make the mind stop thinking thoughts. . . that would be mindLESSness. Instead, we are looking for a focused awareness of what thoughts ARE passing through (this “no thoughts” idea is a common misconception that drives many people away from meditation). When you begin a mindfulness meditation practice, you’ll notice that all of the noise of the mind appears to get louder. This is supposed to happen since we are becoming more aware of just that kind of noise. The idea is that as we become more mindful of the noise, we get more accustomed to it, and therefore less distracted by it, which in turn allows us to remain relaxed and aware of what “is” without the judgments of good or bad.
A daily meditation practice should happen twice per day, once in the morning and once before bed, lasting about 3-5 minutes (longer is fine). To start, use a simple single-pointed meditation with your focus returning to your breath each time you realize that you have become distracted away from it.
When you take the time to notice what you are grateful for, you reward yourself with the gratitude itself. This serves to help you train optimism and to repeat the mindful process.
When you see somebody that is acting poorly, as in being rude to a waitress or waiter, practice understanding that this is the behavior of somebody who is suffering. When you gain this perspective, it helps you tune into your authentic self where mindfulness comes from. Noticing that you care for others is a practice in cultivating mindfulness of compassion . . . still an exercise in mindfulness.
If you take the time to access your own kind nature, you are tapping into mindfulness. This is because to find kindness, we turn inwards in order to aim kind behavior outwards towards others. Can be a result of compassion. And gratitude.
Optimism is a powerful practice that is very susceptible to the practice effect. In other words, the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Optimism helps cultivate mindfulness by tapping into the reward mechanisms of the mind. When you are optimistic and make changes that help you feel better (as a result of the mindfulness), you reinforce the mindfulness and the resulting optimism. A great cycle to create and feed!
Learn more about Mindfulness-based Counseling in Austin.
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.