Mindfulness is being engaged and present in each moment of our lives. Bringing an attitude of curiosity, acceptance and friendliness to whatever is experienced, rather than habitual patterns of judgment and criticism, improves our wellbeing and performance. Life becomes richer and easier.
Life is speeding up and getting busier. We are bombarded with countless distractions, including of course digital technology. These things encourage distractibility and reactivity, leading to stress and impaired performance. Operating on ‘automatic pilot’, habitually scanning for problems in the past and future, and getting caught up in self-criticism all activates the amygdala (the brain’s ‘fear centre’). This can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, ADHD and other mental and physical health problems, as well as problems at work and in our relationships.
Mindfulness offers an effective antidote. We can train ourselves to be more engaged and present though practice. And anything we practise we get better at. When we do even small amounts of mindfulness meditation (attention training) regularly, we retrain the habit of distractibility and become more focused. We can also cultivate attitudes like curiosity, patience, nonjudgment and self-compassion. This rewires key parts of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which makes it easier to be mindful during the rest of the day. This boosts our focus, memory and self-awareness, and improves our wellbeing, relationships and quality of life.
We also start to recognise that even though thoughts, feelings and experiences come and go, there is an awareness that doesn’t change. What is awake in us – that which is looking through our eyes and listening through our ears – is always there. Once we start to relax into this, we become less reactive and much more relaxed, compassionate and joyful. This is the ultimate goal of mindfulness.