A simple, two-minute guide to being present
Mindfulness is often defined as
“the awareness that arises by paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Jon Kabat Zin
This is a mouthful, and daunting for those new to the practice. Mindfulness is better described as the state of simply ‘noticing things’.
Yes, just noticing things. It really is that simple
If you are noticing things, you are mindful of them. If you are not noticing things, you are not mindful of them.
So what are you supposed to notice?
Anything: The wind, your thoughts, how you feel, the space between your eyebrows. You can even walk, talk, eat, and listen mindfully.
The breath is one of the most popular anchors. I once heard someone say: “Life starts with a breath and ends with a breath; it must be important.” That stuck with me.
Once you choose something to notice, now you have to focus on it.
Consider this example. First, you choose something to notice, in this case, your breath. It’s best to be specific, so we’ll say the air at your nostrils. Breathe in through your nose, and out through your nose.
Notice the cold air flowing in, and the warm air flowing out. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out, and continue this rhythm.
Seems easy, but this is more difficult than you think. Thoughts will arise, they always do, and without realizing, your mind will be wandering — usually about stories from the past or anticipated events in the future.
But don’t worry, this is the practice. Once you notice that your mind is wandering, go back to your breath.
The idea is to catch yourself getting hijacked by your thoughts, and then go back to your anchor. This is when the magic happens, and with daily practice, you’re preparing yourself for when it really matters — when life throws one of its curveballs at you.
Instead of getting overwhelmed, however, you’ll be able to catch yourself before it gets out of hand. Just like baseballs player during a big game, it’s the daily practise that prepares them for the important catch, nothing else.
One other important point…
Don’t judge yourself if you get lost in thought. As mindfulness expert Jack Kornfield once said:
“It’s like teaching a puppy how to walk. You don’t beat the puppy when she falls. You pick her up gently and start again.”
So be kind to yourself and just go back to your anchor.