Everywhere we turn, we hear people talk about mindfulness. But what does this term mean? How do we know whether we are practicing mindfulness? Today we will discuss how to think about mindfulness and what it means practically. The keyword with mindfulness is practice. When it comes to being mindful, this is not something we set and forget but rather something that becomes a practice for the entirety of our lives.
We like to think of mindfulness as how you observe yourself and the world around you. Mindfulness is the practice of being present to the chatter and noise of the mind but not becoming the chatter or noise of the mind. It is about being the observer rather than identifying as the rampant thoughts and dialogue.
If you are asking yourself, “What thoughts and dialogue?” then take 30 seconds right now to sit quietly. Try to clear your mind of any thoughts, and see if you can turn off the voice inside your head. Go ahead. This article will wait for you. Likely you found that it is quite challenging to shut down the voice inside your head. But often we listen to this voice as if it is who we are. However, you are actually the listener, the observer, and this is where mindfulness comes in.
Noticing the difference between that voice in your head and the observer of this voice is the first step. Why? If you notice that voice in your head, you will start to recognize that it has a mind of its own. It will race from subject to subject and thought to thought, often with very little rhyme or reason. Yes, some of the thoughts are related to our current reality, but often that voice will also create its own truth. It will begin to generate fear or worry where none is warranted. It will bring you into the past or future and have you thinking about things that have no bearing on the present, and it will talk you into thinking that what it is hovering on is a crucial matter when often it truly isn’t. Many people refer to this as the monkey mind because of the tendency to swing from thought to thought, in constant motion, always looking for the tree branch or, in this case, the thought to grab on to.
The practice of mindfulness is to calm this monkey mind and to be in careful observation of it. You will never fully eradicate the monkey mind, nor would you want to, but being the watcher changes your relationship to the process and gives you more freedom and autonomy to stay nonreactive to the chatter of the mind. This practice of staying in observation will create space for you to make decisions and take action from a more neutral and focused area, and this, my friends, is the practice of mindfulness.