Mindfulness: What Is It?

Mindfulness: What Is It?
How to meditate: Mastering your inner maelstrom. Illustration: Cristina Guitian

First of all, I’ll tell you what it isn’t: difficult.

It’s actually pretty simple. So simple, in fact, that I intend to describe it to you in a very short post today. Simple concepts beget simple explanations.

Mindfulness is a way of improving your being. Being, in this context, refers to your entire experience of life. Through mindfulness, you develop greater self-awareness, hone attention span and find more calmness and gratitude in your life.

It helps you find serenity, while also strengthening your ability to make well thought-out decisions and congruent actions. It helps you accept the results of those actions, no matter what they are.

So how do you get more of this mindfulness thing?

It’s true that it is a form of meditation but don’t write it off just yet. Mindfulness is also a way of being. And of doing. And of thinking.
It’s about being here now, present in the moment. Fully aware of your environment, internal and external, but completely non-judgemental about what you see.

Mindfulness is about really, truly, fully living life – as it is happening. Not thinking about the future or ruminating about the past – but being here now.

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

It’s absolutely not. It just takes practice.

Practice, by the way, can happen formally and informally.

Formal practice occurs in the way that we typically thinking about meditation – sitting quietly, with relaxed posture, and clearing our minds of thoughts.

Informal practice happens as you go about your day – brushing your teeth, eating, driving to work … you can practice doing normal, everyday things. Mindfulness means paying attention to what you are doing – observing yourself in action . And when thoughts come up you notice them, label them, and let them go just as quickly as they arrived.

You think that’s the part that sounds impossible? How can you stop thinking with a wildly abundant ADHD mind?

The misconception about mindfulness is that you must wipe your mind clean of all thoughts. Mindfulness is not mindlessness. You allow thoughts to come and go. But you don’t “chase” them. Mindfulness is continually bringing your attention back to the present moment – over and over and over again. And over again if you must.

Let me ask you this:

How much of your life have you missed because you weren’t really there? (Click to tweet)

How much richer, happier and fulfilling could your life be, if you experienced it through the lens of mindful appreciation and acceptance?

If you think having ADHD excludes you from meditating, or from mental clarity and mindful being- think again. Go and read The Mindfulness Prescription for Adult ADHD, By Lidia Zylowska, MD. She might change your mind.

One last thing…

If you are taking this journey with me, you must make two promises.

Firstly, that you will not over-complicate it. We ADDers love to create marvellously-designed systems that we never use. Mindfulness is born out of simplicity. You don’t need a system to practice – just do it whenever can.

Secondly, promise you won’t be hard on yourself when your mind continually wanders off. Pinky swear you won’t! Even if you have to bring your attention back a hundred times a minute, it doesn’t mean you are bad at mindfulness. It means you’re normal.

Make no mistake, I am no Zen-Master. I’m learning along side you. While I have been practising mindfulness for some time now, I still have to bring my attention back to the moment frequently x 10. But I have certainly improved from when I started!

See for yourself. For the next week, practice being mindful for one minute a day, maybe while brushing your teeth or eating. We are starting small so we can grow this muscle slowly. One minute a day is a decent goal. If you go longer – wow, you’re awesome!

Tell me how it goes in the comments below.