What Is Mindfulness?
An excerpt from my book Mindfulness Secrets
Here’s a little experiment I want you to try right now.
Stand in front of an object like a picture, a light, your computer screen..whatever. First, focus on that object. Now take one hand and place it in your field of vision between you and the object.
Depending on what most captures your attention, either the first object will be clear and your hand blurry, or vice versa. Now take your other hand and place it in your field of vision in front of the first hand. What happened this time? What is clear and what is blurry?
Now try to shift your focus between the objects. First, focus on the closest hand and notice what happens to your other hand and the object. Now focus on the middle hand. Then focus on the far object. Did you notice that as your attention is drawn to one object the others become fuzzy? That’s what we do with mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not about having no thoughts, it’s about focusing on a single thought or idea. And that idea is the present. Think about the previous exercise, and let’s say that the object that is furthest away is your future, the one in the middle is your present and the one closest to you is your past. The practice of mindfulness would be to focus our attention on that middle object or idea of the present so that the future and past become less dominant in our perceptions. Not focusing on the present is one of the biggest problems that we face.
Many of us are either too focused on our past or too concerned about what our future might look like. I am in no way saying that these things should be ignored, but when we are obsessed with the past we stop growing and are often plagued by guilt and depression. When we become obsessed with the future we create fear and anxiety. When we are trapped between the two we feel stress. By that I mean that we feel our future fears pulling us forward, our past experiences pulling us backward, and the present moment stuck in the middle of an emotional tug of war. So how do you break the cycle? The answer is by learning to focus on the present moment. That is what mindfulness does for us.
Being mindful doesn’t erase the past, but it can allow you to look at it from a new perspective. Being mindful doesn’t mean that you don’t plan for the future. Rather it gives you a firm foundation from which to start. Mindfulness is not something abstract and exclusive. It is concrete and inclusive. When you practice mindfulness, the key is to be more of an observer of the present than judge, jury, and executioner.
Ultimately our aim should be to live a mindful life, not just practice mindfulness.
“Being mindful doesn’t erase the past, but it can allow you to look at it from a new perspective. Being mindful doesn’t mean that you don’t plan for the future. Rather it gives you a firm foundation from which to start. “
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