What Is Mindfulness?

Updated: Jan 17

After becoming a Mindfulness and Meditation Coach, friends and former coworkers frequently ask me to explain what that means. What exactly is mindfulness? I wanted to take a moment to provide those of you asking this question with my answer and hopefully inspire you to add mindfulness practices to your life.


But first…


How do you define mindfulness? Take a moment before you read any farther just to imagine how you would describe mindfulness to a friend or coworker. Maybe even write down a few of your thoughts. What does it mean to be mindful? How do you feel when you are acting mindfully? How do you imagine someone who is mindful to act?


I usually start my workshops by asking the attendees these questions. The responses can certainly vary, but I’ve found that most people have a fairly good grasp of one part of mindfulness: being present.


We hear phrases that include “mindful” associated with our actions on a fairly regular basis: “Be mindful of the curb” and “Don’t forget to be mindful when you speak with her”, so we associate mindfulness with observation and awareness in a particular moment = being present.


From my experience, the idea of being present is only one part of mindfulness. Although the definition of mindfulness isn’t set in stone, I like to reference Jon Kabat Zinn:


“Mindfulness is paying attention on purpose in the present moment non-judgmentally.”


I prefer this definition because it allows us to extract three basic tenets of mindfulness, which I will discuss below.


Being Present

As already discussed, being present is probably the most commonly understand element of mindfulness. The concept of staying present is fairly straightforward, but actually implementing this practice in your daily life can be challenging. We are constantly bombarded with distractions and our minds are easily drawn in multiple directions. Remaining present is a skill that we can grow through mindfulness practices and ultimately improve our ability to focus, reduce spiraling thoughts, and enjoy each moment.


Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the second main tenet of mindfulness. Mindfulness teaches us to be aware of our bodies and our emotions; we slow down when we meditate and notice feelings or thoughts. Building this skill translates directly into how we treat ourselves and others – we learn how to extend more compassion and empathy with ourselves and ultimately to those around us. We are also better able to pause before we react to a situation; examine and understand our initial inclinations; and determine how we want to move forward rather than simply reacting.


Suspending Judgment

Finally, suspending judgment is maybe one of the hardest of the three elements of mindfulness to recognize and implement. The final key to mindfulness is to let go of judgments of yourself and others. Through our mindfulness practice, we learn to simply notice with curiosity and an open mind. In the same way that self-awareness helps us with our interactions with others, letting go of judgment of ourselves means that we reduce judgment of others and recognize our biases. We are better able to accept the differences of our family, friends, and coworkers and see how these differences make our relationships and teams stronger.


If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness and how these skills can help you with your own stress management or leadership, check out upcoming fleeceandforests workshops, corporate services, or contact Elyssa at elyssa@fleeceandforests.com.

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