There are many psychological approaches and physical practices that are cornerstone to understanding, cultivating and maintaining a mindfulness practice. Sometimes these mental shifts may be contrary to your habitual way of thinking or being, and they may feel challenging to incorporate. No need to let that stop you; meet yourself where you are at – be kind, be patient, be open to the process and in time, and with practice, you will be able to integrate mindfulness into your life and be able to reap the multitude of benefits.
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- BreathThe foundation of a mindfulness practice is developing a connection to your breath. Each inhalation and exhalation naturally roots you to the present moment, inherently bringing you back to the here and now. Focusing on your breath allows for the opportunity to respond and not react, and decide with intention how to proceed. Coming back to your breath gives space in between those moments of compulsivity or reactivity and helps you break unskillful, habitual patterns by bringing awareness to your present moment experience. The breath also provides many natural healing qualities, such as decreasing heart rate, re-oxygenating the brain and allowing relief from physical symptoms. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “as long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you.”
- Being PresentBeing in the here and now is a cornerstone to this practice. Often we get stuck ruminating on the past or fearing the future, both of which cause us suffering in the present. However, when you are able to be cognizant of this moment, you recognize that it is the only moment that you actually have control over, the only moment that matters. Where are you? Here! What time is it? Now!
- AwarenessBeing mindful is simply about being aware. It is awarness of what is going on inside of you, both mentally and emotionally, as well as what is going on around you. Too often we move through life unaware of what we are doing and eventually ask ourselves, “How did I get here?” When practicing mindfulness we strive towards heightening our awareness so we can be an awake and active participant in our own life.
- AttentionPaying attention is an essential component of mindfulness. The object of your attention can be constantly shift; there is no hierarchy to what you are supposed to be paying attention to. It could be focusing on your breath, being aware of your thoughts, heightening your experience of your senses or simply noticing where your mind’s attention is at in the present moment. It is not the object of your attention that is important, it is in the attending itself that matters.
- IntentionSetting intentions allows you to connect your thoughts with your actions. We often don’t stop to consider why we are doing the things that we do, which continues us down a path of mindlessness. Setting an intention is putting a plan or action into place with conscious and purposeful awareness. Living with congruency between your thoughts and our actions allows you to live authentically and mindfully.
- Non-judgmentalWhen being mindful we strive to view ourselves in a non-judgmental way. This means developing the compassion for yourself in believing you are doing the best that you can and that each moment is a new opportunity to practice living with presence and intention. The more you are able to feel compassion towards yourself, rather than judge, the more inclined you are to feel compassion for others, rather than judge others.
- GratitudePracticing gratitude can be an antidote to almost anything. It is hard to stay mad, angry, sad, frustrated, overwhelmed or anxious when you can find something to be grateful for. When you have an attitude of gratitude you create a mental and emotional shift from focusing on the negative to choosing to focus on the positive. You are what you think: the more you focus on negative thoughts it actually strengthens those neural connections and imprints that negativity further into your implicit way of being. However, neuroscientists have discovered when you focus on gratitude and choose to focus on the positive and what you are grateful for, you are actually strengthening that positivity into your neural structure, thus rewiring your brain towards happiness. So, it doesn’t just make you feel good when thinking about something you are grateful for, but it actually benefits you on a neural level.
- CompassionCompassion is the practice of caring about the welfare of all beings. When we operate from a place of deeper sympathy and empathy, compassion emerges, and we experience a greater level of connectivity with those around us. We also begin to recognize that separateness does not really exist as we all share a common, human experience. Practicing self-compassion is caring deeply about yourself, being kind to yourself and giving yourself credit and acknowledgment for all that you have gone through. When we honor that “this is hard” and rest in the knowledge that we generally are doing the best that we can, we can accept our own message of compassion.
- Friendliness to SelfWe are often our own worse critics; we would never think of talking to our friends the way that we talk to ourselves in our head. When cultivating a mindfulness practice we strive to treat ourselves with friendliness, kindness and love. Once we experience greater friendliness to self, you develop deeper self-compassion, and are able to honor and appreciate your path. The goal is to be gentle and accepting to yourself and the practice is to be with yourself in a non-judgmental way.
- TrustTrust is the practice of intuitively knowing that life is unfolding exactly as it is supposed to. Even when there are bumps, curves or detours in your path, you trust that everything is happening for a reason. It requires acceptance, patience and faith in the order of the universe. That can sometimes be difficult, especially through difficult times, however, relying on trust can provide peace and comfort when you may otherwise feel helpless or hopeless.
- AllowingWhen being mindful, we allow space for whatever is arising. Allowing your experiences to exist with openness helps you to relate to the present moment without judgment, expectation or attachment. It’s as if you are watching what’s occurring in or around you and relating in an objective way, without getting overly caught up. You don’t always need to judge, analyze or change what is emerging; the practice is simply just to allow and let it be.
- Letting GoNothing in life is permanent and the most constant thing is change, so we practice the art of letting go. When you let go of expectations, thoughts, or habits that are no longer serving you, then you experience freedom. Additionally, when you learn to let go of attachments to the ways you thought your life “should” be and accept the way your life is actually is, the more you are able to find peace. This does not mean that letting go is giving in – it is not sitting back and succumbing to live with resentment; you still must be active participants in your life. The mindful moment comes when you recognize that you are getting caught up, and you can make the conscious choice to let go. There is also faith in knowing you are exactly where you are supposed to be and that life is unfolding as it should, and letting go is part of your path and process.
- Beginner’s MindTo see the world with a beginner’s mind is to look at each moment anew. The practice is let go of old stories, expectations, or judgments as they relate to your present moment experience. This moment is new; it has never happened before. Even if may look similar as yesterday, it is not the same, and even you are not the same as you were yesterday. Bringing these old attachments or expectations to the existing moment, blinds you from seeing what actually is. When being mindful, strive to be fully open in any given situation as if you are experiencing it for the first time.