On a normal day, you are bombarded with sounds, sights, smells, and thoughts. You read the headlines in your newspaper, glance at the pictures in your magazine, listen to the radio or television, and even chat with friends. You plan your day, think about your problems, and plan your day’s activities. You brush your teeth, take a shower, wash your clothes, eat breakfast. You drive home, sit down at your computer, and check your email.
In this busy world, it’s easy to lose touch with the present moment. But you can practice mindfulness, which is being present in all of your activities. Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, on purpose, in a nonjudgmental way. It involves learning to focus your attention. Your attention is like a spotlight. You can direct it where you need it.
Mindfulness means noticing your thoughts, feelings, and sensations, but not judging them. Mindfulness helps you to be aware of your current experience. But mindfulness doesn’t “fix” anything. It doesn’t correct your thinking or fix your relationships or make you a better person. But it does help you to process your experience, to become more accepting of it, and to respond rather than react. The following exercises can help.
- The first step in practicing mindfulness is learning to observe our experience with curiosity and without judging. Simply recognizing what is happening in the moment.
- The second step is to develop the ability to observe in a nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness helps us recognize and eliminate our habit of judging our experiences. Once we notice our judgments, we can choose how to respond to them, instead of letting them pass unquestioned.
- The third step is to develop the ability to observe with awareness, and with acceptance. We can accept our thoughts and feelings as they are. We can notice the thoughts and feelings without letting them control our behavior. We can accept whatever experiences we have, without trying to push them away.