What Is Mindfulness And Where Does It Come From?
The concept of mindfulness traces its origins to eastern philosophical schools of thought like Buddhism. Among other things, Buddhism teaches that we are both a physical being having experiences and an objective observer who witnesses these experiences.
This relates to the Buddhist concept of attachment and how attaching ourselves to objects and belief systems can be detrimental to our ultimate spiritual growth.
To be mindful is to engage in activities, those in your daily life or deliberate meditation, with focus. Mindfulness is accepting your state of being, the activity you’re engaged in, and the emotions that flow through and around you.
It calls on the observer within us to separate from our experiences and invites that higher state of consciousness to evaluate what it sees.
But, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to see some brilliance and value in mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness: Mindfulness For The Modern Human
As a regular person in today’s society, you are faced with decisions, tasks, goals and interpersonal interactions every day. You are tempted to judge yourself and others, comparing and contrasting in the hopes of making yourself feel more powerful or achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself.
While it’s subtle, this exercise can quickly slide into an ego attached state. Meaning, you judge a situation and attach feelings to it. These feelings are attached to who you believe you are. You experience jealousy, anger, frustration… all ‘real’ states, but states that neither uplift nor motivate you in a real way.
What if you recognized that there are actually two sides to who you are? What if there was a subtle difference between your mind and your soul? That concept of a soul comes in handy when thinking about mindfulness, even if you aren’t religious. Another way to consider it is to say there is both a physical and mental expression of your essence and that essence itself.
We can call this essence our ‘observer self.’
If you practice mindfulness and become aware of your ‘observer’ self, you can undertake evaluation in a less attached way. This shifts the internal conversation – let’s check out an example.
Observing Mental Tendencies That Aren’t Helpful
‘Joe has a new Mercedes because he’s successful, but I deserve that success too! Maybe my jealousy can motivate me to be more successful.’ This is an attached, ego-centric way to look at a goal. Instead, our mindful self could say something slightly different about the same situation.
‘Abundance feels good, and one of the things I enjoy about abundance is the ability to experience things I enjoy. When I see Joe in his Mercedes, it inspires me to work smarter and harder so I can enjoy the security of abundance and some of the things it allows me. Those things are fun and bring me joy, which makes me feel good.’
Obviously, we’re talking about a physical possession here, which isn’t the most spiritual example, however, it’s a real-life situation many of us experience. Most of us do need to work in order to earn money so we can afford shelter as well as material possessions that bring us some enjoyment.
When we allow our observer to think, ‘other me likes such and such, and that me has to do some things to get it,’ it feels less serious than ‘why don’t I work harder so I can have nice things too!’ That’s one of the benefits of mindfulness. It promotes flexible thinking which decreases stress and bolsters self-esteem.
Mindful thinking also keeps us from hating Joe, or divorces us from any negative feelings surrounding what we want. Whether Joe has a nice car or not has very little to do with whether you do. Therefore, mindfulness is a way to sidestep unnecessary negativity on the path to joy.
What Is Mindfulness: How To Practice
How can you practice mindfulness?
Mindful relaxation is a great way to incorporate this concept into your life and destress at the same time.
Another way you can be more mindful is to monitor your language, both internally and externally. When you say something negative or harmful to yourself, stop for a second and come up with a new, more positive and kind way to express the thought. Repeat that in your mind before moving on.
You can do the same thing in conversation with others. If you don’t like what you hear yourself saying, stop for a second and think about how you could say it more positively. You can share this out loud or keep it to yourself.
Mindfulness also means taking a moment to be present in the moment and enjoy something that’s beautiful or that brings you joy. Flowers, nature, scents, music, and our loved ones all give us opportunities to do this.
Can you be mindful every day for a week? Try it out and see how it goes! Let us know how you do in the comments or through our social media channels. We love sharing your experience.