The Practice of Mindfulness
The word “mindfulness” is becoming more familiar to the general public, and that’s a good thing. In a world full of violence and heartache, a mindful mind can help relieve suffering. Mindfulness is the practice of noticing what “is” without the addition of judgments of good or bad. For example, think of a time when you experienced physical pain but remained calm and found that the pain was not as bad as you would typically experience 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, and others 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 an important concept to understand.
It’s essential to become acquainted with mindfulness and the role it can play in your life. It’s also important to have an accurate understanding of what mindfulness means and how you can cultivate it based on your unique personality. For some, creativity is a path to mindfulness, while others find martial arts, meditation, focused curiosity, and asking certain contemplative questions throughout the day helpful in cultivating mindfulness.
Regardless of how you cultivate mindfulness, you’ll find that it starts to show up outside of your practice. At first, you may experience that flow state, sometimes called metacognition, in small flashes. With more practice, it will become more familiar and longer-lasting.
Like anything in life, we don’t just turn on mastery of mindfulness. Instead, we start with some concrete practices and gradually move towards mastery. Here are some practices to start with as you begin to explore your own self-awareness:
Meditation is a mindfulness practice in and of itself. It’s important to note that the idea of meditation is not to make the mind stop thinking thoughts, as that would be mindlessness. Instead, the goal is to achieve a focused awareness of what thoughts are passing through your mind. When you start a mindfulness meditation practice, you may notice that all the noise in your mind appears to get louder. This is supposed to happen since you’re becoming more aware of that kind of noise. As you become more mindful of the noise, you get more accustomed to it, which in turn allows you to remain relaxed and aware of what “is” without 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 gratitude itself. This helps you train your optimism and repeat the mindful process.
When you see somebody behaving poorly, such as being rude to a waiter or waitress, practice understanding that this is the behavior of somebody who is suffering. Gaining this perspective 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.
Accessing your own kind nature is key to cultivating mindfulness through kindness. You can start by turning inwards and finding kindness within yourself, and then aim to extend that kindness towards others. Kindness can also be a result of compassion and gratitude.
Optimism is a powerful practice that can be easily improved through repetition. The more you practice optimism, the better you get at it. Optimism can help 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 mindfulness), you reinforce mindfulness and the resulting optimism. This creates a great cycle that can help you cultivate mindfulness and positivity in your life.
By practicing kindness and optimism, you can cultivate mindfulness and create positive changes in your life. Give them a try and see how they can benefit you
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.