Mindfulness refers to being fully present with ourselves and our surroundings, and having an awareness of our physical and mental states. While this seems simple enough, maintaining a state of mindfulness can be very challenging, and goes against many common thought patterns. We often tend to dwell on the past or worry about the future, which can lead to negative thoughts and emotions that wouldn’t necessarily be part of our experience if we stuck to focusing on the “now.” Meditation often goes hand in hand with mindfulness, and is incredibly useful in facilitating a state of presence and awareness. However, it is also possible to live a mindful lifestyle, and enjoy the benefits throughout everyday life.
Being fully present requires us to be aware of what we’re feeling mentally, emotionally, and physically in that very moment. This involves tuning in to our true underlying state, in addition to our current authentic experience.
Are there sensations of fatigue or irritation? Body aches or pains? Stress or anxiety? What can we see and hear in our environment?
While cultivating awareness of ourselves and what exists around us is part of being mindful, the next step is to not cloud that innate perception with judgement. Upon observation of something in ourselves, or our environment, we tend to quickly attach an emotion to the experience, and unfortunately, a negative association is typically the default. This initial negative connotation often triggers further negative thoughts, which can lead to a downward spiral of destructive thinking and a painful emotional experience.
For example, we might start by thinking how tired we’re feeling. This leads to thoughts of how hard it is to get all our tasks done and how stressful it will be if we can’t keep up and things just keep piling up. Will we ever feel normal and have time for ourselves?
This continuous mental chatter is known in Buddhism as papancha: endless mental proliferation. The consecutive expansion of thoughts and concepts from a single observation can pave the way for suffering, because often the negative emotions we experience are triggered by our papancha instead of the original experience itself. In that sense, we can avoid many negative emotions if we evade judgement of ourselves and our environment, and perceive them simply as they are.
For example, experiencing a sensation of feeling tired. The end.
Conjuring mindfulness involves quieting the mind and managing our papancha. It involves bare awareness and observation, without attaching judgement, as well as recognizing how we’re feeling in the current moment. Living mindfully is cultivating a sense of presence and awareness that doesn’t waver at the temptation of judgement or papacha.
Here are 3 ways to help bring more mindfulness into your daily life:
- Have a self check-in at least once per day, where you ground yourself and tune in to how you’re truly feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Strive to focus on the present moment, and avoid wavering thoughts to the past or future.
- Avoid judgement of yourself and your surroundings, and simply perceive them as they are.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
Disclaimer: this information is general and for informational purposes only. It does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Consult a licensed healthcare practitioner for personal medical care and prior to starting new treatment.