What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. Chances are you are reading this because you’ve heard something in the past about how the present is the place to be (as if you could ever be anywhere else). Many people seem to think that being in the moment requires attending the right retreat, doing the right meditation, finding the right teacher, wearing the right clothes, or reading the right book. In an attempt to monetize the moment, people have marketed mindfulness into something that it’s not, something much more complicated than it needs to be. 

Mindfulness is observing and accepting what is happening right now regardless of what it is. And to be mindful, all you have to do is connect with your senses. This includes your five senses that tell you what is happening in your external environment: what you hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. It also includes your “felt sense” that tells you what is happening in your internal environment—your inner sensations. It also includes your “mind’s eye”—the ability to consciously observe your thoughts. 

The only way to connect with the moment is through these senses because your senses are your body’s way of telling you what is taking place right now. After all, you’ve never smelled anything in the past. You can think about something you smelled before, but that doesn’t mean you smell it now. Think about the smell of a rose. You might have an idea of what that smells like, but that’s all it is, just an idea. Notice you don’t really smell it. There is only a thought about a smell, and there’s a big difference between thinking about something and actually experiencing it.

The moment is always happening. In fact, that’s all there ever is—this present moment. Everything continually unfolds before us and within us in one timeless, cohesive, perfect movement that we call “now”. Nothing in reality is actually separate and everything is exactly as it should be. That is, until the human mind enters the picture and does the one thing it does best: it adds to the moment. What does it add? It adds thoughts of all kinds—labels, judgments, analyses, descriptions, concepts, and stories. And as it adds to the moment, it tends to pull the person’s awareness away from what is happening in her internal and external environment, and pulls her awareness into thoughts about what is taking place in her environment. My hope is that you will come to experience life as it really is in the here and now rather than connecting with life through your thoughts about it. Put another way, let’s spend less time thinking about the present, and more time experiencing it directly.

Mindfulness also requires a sense of curiosity and adventure. You must be willing to look at things as if you’re seeing them for the first time—like an inquisitive child. Your mind must be open to the possibility that there is another way to be and that anything is possible. And this willingness to be open to new things is good. It leads to a sense of adventure that can carry you to new places that ironically are the only place you’ve ever been—right here, right now.