As you can tell, I’ve really gotten into mindfulness as of late. Although I’ve been practicing mindfulness for about 10 years, a convergence of things have led me to become more focused on it.
I can say with utmost confidence that mindfulness is not a fad or the latest craze. It’s a way of living that has been around for thousands of years. Virtually every spiritual tradition emphasizes some form of mindfulness, although this is usually referred to with some other term such as being conscious, present, aware, and awakened. Western psychology has really begun to focus on the importance of mindfulness in the past decade. Indeed, I believe the popular “cognitive-behavioral therapy” approach (or CBT) really works because we become more mindful of our thoughts…particularly our negative thoughts…and learn not to get swept up in them. There’s no way to change patterns of dysfunctional thinking without first becoming aware of the dysfunctional thinking.
As I’ve said, you are not your thoughts. When you become aware of you thoughts (or emotions or bodily sensations), then you are that conscious presence. Mindfulness is not thinking, it is being. It is that connection with the present moment and what is going on around you. To be mindful, you are not emptying your head and trying to think of nothing. That’s quite a challenge! Instead of trying to have no thoughts go on in your head, just tune in to the present moment. How do you know that you’re alive? Can you sense your breathing? Do you feel the “aliveness” in your body? Where and how do you feel it? What different shapes and colors do you see around you? How many different sounds can you detect right now? All of these things can pull us in to the present moment. While we are in the present moment, we don’t have to fight against a current of negative thoughts. We are standing on the shore and outside of that current. This is liberation.