Mindfulness is usually defined as ‘deliberately paying attention to our experience as it arises without judgement’. By paying attention to our inner and outer experience we begin to notice our habitual thoughts and behaviours and we can see which ones are helpful and which are not.
Most of us spend much of our time in our heads – we try and think our way out of our problems. This type of problem-solving can be very effective at work or with practical things but is less successful when we are struggling with emotions. Therefore it is helpful to take the time to do some body-focused practices such as a body scan or paying attention to the breath or a movement practice such as yoga to take our attention from the head and into the body.
Any activity can be done mindfully – the key thing is to do it and know that you are doing it. We also want to let go of striving for a particular outcome or goal and instead allow the experience to unfold in its own way. When we have a particular expectation we may be disappointed if things don’t go as we thought however, if we can be open to whatever might arise all kinds of possibilities might present themselves. When we have a particular goal in mind we may find ourselves continually judging our experience to see how near or far we are from where we think we ought to be.
So when we are practising mindfulness we are not looking to have any particular experience – instead we are learning to be with whatever experience may arise. This way we learn to ride the ups and downs of life. When you do some of the practices here you may be relaxed at the end but you may well not and that’s okay.
Practising mindfulness is an opportunity to be curious about your experience, we want to be open to whatever comes up (even if we don’t like it) without having a particular agenda or expectation. Most importantly we are practising kindness and letting go of judging our experience. We need to be patient and trust in the process that although very often it seems that nothing is happening if we practice regularly we will start noticing changes with time.
It’s important for you to take care of yourself so if at any time you feel really uncomfortable in the practices please just stop.
We’ve put together a range of practices to help you fit them into your everyday life. The Mindfulness Takeaways are ones you can watch a few times to get the gist of the instructions and then you can do these when you are out and about without needing access to any recordings. The longer practices give you an opportunity to practice being with the wandering mind and using the breath as an anchor.
Remember, the past is fixed and the future is uncertain. However, what we do now in this moment affects what happens next – the future. The present moment is the only moment we can change.