Mindfulness exercises allow you to be able to identify, tolerate and reduce difficult, painful and even frightening thoughts, feelings and sensations. Mindfulness gives you back some sense of mastery over our thoughts and feelings. Rather than having the sense that you are being pushed around by your feelings and thoughts you learn to be able to have some agency over them.
So what is mindfulness? Below are some definitions:
- The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment (Kabat-Zinn, 2003).
- The non-judgmental observation of the ongoing stream of internal and external stimuli as they arise (Baer, 2003).
- Keeping one’s complete attention to the experience on a moment to moment basis (Martlett & Kristeller, 1999).
Put simply, mindfulness is as simple as becoming aware of your here and now experience, both internally and in the external world around you. It gives you a space in the present moment to be able to more safely deal with the distressing and painful memories of things that might have happened to you in the past. It also allows you to look at and plan for the future, even when you might have fearful thoughts about things that haven’t yet happened, from a secure position of knowing that you are in the present moment. In fact, we are never NOT in the present moment – we just lose track of that fact quite often.
Sometimes it is easier to understand something in terms of what it is not. Here are some examples of mindLESSness:
The opposite of mindfulness: Mindlessness
- Breaking things, spilling things, clumsiness, or accidents due to carelessness, inattention or thinking about something else.
- Failing to notice subtle or not-so-subtle feelings of physical discomfort, pain, tension, etc.
- Forgetting someone’s name as soon as you hear it.
- Listening to someone with one ear while doing something else at the same time.
- Getting so focused on goals that you lose touch with what you are doing right now.
- Getting lost in your thoughts and feelings, daydreaming, or being “a million miles away.”
- Being preoccupied with the future or the past.
- Eating without being aware of eating; looking down at your plate and thinking “gosh, where did my meal go?”
- Driving somewhere slightly different than usual and suddenly realising you’ve automatically started the route to your workplace.
- Having periods of time where you have difficulty remembering the details of what happened – running on autopilot.
- Reacting emotionally in certain ways – feeling like an emotion just “came out of nowhere.”
- Planning or thinking of other things when doing chores.
- Doing several things at once rather than focusing on one thing at a time.
- Distracting yourself with things like eating, alcohol, pornography, drugs, work.
If you do some or even most of these things at times, then you are probably a normal member of the human race! However they do indicate a disconnect from the now, from awareness, and from being “in the present moment.”
We have provided a number of downloadable mindfulness strategies in this section. These pages include audio mindfulness exercises you can download, and also PDF files you can read over. You can download them to a CD or straight to an iPod or MP3 player. Use the ones that seem most helpful to you. After using the recordings for a while you may find that it is easier to just practice mindfulness without them. You might find you are developing your own mindfulness strategies that work well for you.
- Mindfulness of the External World
- Eating Mindfulness
- Walking Mindfulness
- Breathing Mindfulness
- Body Scan
- External World and Breath
- Mindfulness of Thoughts
- Thoughts, Body Sensations and Emotions
- Compassion Mindfulness
- Mountain Meditation
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Mindfulness of Physical Discomfort
- Mindfulness of Difficult/Painful Thoughts
- Empty Bowl Meditation
Note: We would like to express our appreciation to Kent Smith and Janine Hills for the development of these valuable resources. Should anyone wish to purchase a complete CD of these Mindfulness Exercises, please contact us with a return email address and we will pass your enquiry on to Kent.
Another great website discussing the value of Mindfulness is Jim Hopper’s page on Mindfulness and Kindness at www.jimhopper.com/mindfulness.