mindfulness is

In case you have ever wondered what mindfulness is, keep reading and discover what it is and what it is not.

Mindfulness might be a fancy word, a trend, or even a hot topic in some circles, like wellness and mental health. But beyond all that, it is a human capacity that we all have, and we all can cultivate and develop.

What mindfulness is…

Mindfulness is the ability to be present and aware of the events as they are unfolding, whether they are internal, such as thoughts and emotions, or external, such as the surrounding situations. The most important aspect of mindfulness, perhaps, is its intentional nature, which involves acknowledging and accepting these events as they are, without judgment or resistance.

In understanding mindfulness, it is important to distinguish between these two processes of our mind: attention and thought. They are like the two sides of a coin. When we are thinking, analyzing, planning, building our own stories –and believing them– our mind loses contact with the actual reality, and we are no longer paying attention.

And although we all have the potential to be mindful, it is easy to get distracted by our thoughts. In an instant, our minds can get pulled by the narrative of how things should be, the pending items on our to-do list, or the possible catastrophic events coming our way. And when this happens, when the mind shifts into thinking mode, it moves away from the present moment.

Why is this important?

Our thoughts generate emotions, and when they are intense they can make us behave in reactive ways, especially during stressful moments. Without even realizing it, many of the decisions we make stem from the energy of our emotions, fed by our reactive thinking minds.

But if we are mindful of what is happening inside and outside of us, and we can see things for what they truly are, then we can intentionally choose a different way to respond to those events.

Mindfulness is all about the intentional decision to train our minds to be present, and in that quality of being, we can identify our emotional states and the thoughts behind them, and the way we react to them. It is taking the time to know and understand ourselves better and open the scope of possibilities. In other words, it is about knowing what triggers us, we can intentionally choose a different response, and hopefully a better one.

What mindfulness is not…

Mindfulness is not about going blank or erasing thoughts -which by the way is not possible- but embracing what is happening, simply because it is already here, and then deciding what to do with it.

How do we do it?

We practice mindfulness when we intentionally slow down. It takes only one mindful pause to come back to our senses to experience life without agendas, with openness and curiosity. And if we decide to go deeper, we can practice mindfulness meditation, which is nothing but the mental training of focusing and refocusing our attention.

In a nutshell, this is what mindfulness is: the intentional decision to be fully present in mind and body.

And although it may seem simple, it is not necessarily so. This capacity to stay focused amidst difficulties requires consistent mental training. This is what we achieve through the practice of mindfulness meditation, which is not a religion, a cult, or a trend. It is the decision to focus our attention again and again. And luckily, we all can do it! One mindful moment at a time, one mindful pause at a time.

Claudia Vega