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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
My own definition of mindfulness is very simple:

Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.

But I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness:

“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;

On purpose,
in the present moment, and
nonjudgmentally.”

Kabat-Zinn, if you haven’t heard of him, is a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

Paying attention “on purpose”

First of all, mindfulness involves paying attention “on purpose”. Mindfulness involves a conscious direction of our awareness. We sometimes (me included) talk about “mindfulness” and “awareness” as if they were interchangeable terms, but that’s not a good habit to get into. I may be aware I’m irritable, but that wouldn’t mean I was being mindful of my irritability. In order to be mindful I have to be purposefully aware of myself, not just vaguely and habitually aware. Knowing that you are eating is not the same as eating mindfully.

Let’s take that example of eating and look at it a bit further. When we are purposefully aware of eating, we are consciously being aware of the process of eating. We’re deliberately noticing the sensations and our responses to those sensations. We’re noticing the mind wandering, and when it does wander we purposefully bring our attention back.

When we’re eating unmindfully we may in theory be aware of what we’re doing, but we’re probably thinking about a hundred and one other things at the same time, and we may also be watching TV, talking, or reading — or even all three! So a very small part of our awareness is absorbed with eating, and we may be only barely aware of the physical sensations and even less aware of our thoughts and emotions.

Because we’re only dimly aware of our thoughts, they wander in an unrestricted way. There’s no conscious attempt to bring our attention back to our eating. There’s no purposefulness.

This purposefulness is a very important part of mindfulness. Having the purpose of staying with our experience, whether that’s the breath, or a particular emotion, or something as simple as eating, means that we are actively shaping the mind.

Paying attention “in the present moment”

Guided Mindfulness Meditation: A Complete Guided Mindfulness Meditation Program from Jon Kabat-Zinn

Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. As we indulge in these kinds of thoughts we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves to suffer. Mostly these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists. The future is just a fantasy until it happens. The one moment we actually can experience — the present moment — is the one we seem most to avoid.

So in mindfulness we’re concerned with noticing what’s going on right now. That doesn’t mean we can no longer think about the past or future, but when we do so we do so mindfully, so that we’re aware that right now we’re thinking about the past or future.

However in meditation, we are concerned with what’s arising in the present moment. When thoughts about the past or future take us away from our present moment experience and we “space out” we try to notice this and just come back to now.

By purposefully directing our awareness away from such thoughts and towards the “anchor” or our present moment experience, we decrease their effect on our lives and we create instead a space of freedom where calmness and contentment can grow.

Paying attention “non-judgmentally”

Mindfulness Meditations for Teens, by Bodhipaksa
Mindfulness Meditations for Teens, by Bodhipaksa
Mindfulness is an emotionally non-reactive state. We don’t judge that this experience is good and that one is bad. Or if we do make those judgements we simply notice them and let go of them. We don’t get upset because we’re experiencing something we don’t want to be experiencing or because we’re not experiencing what we would rather be experiencing. We simply accept whatever arises. We observe it mindfully. We notice it arising, passing through us, and ceasing to exist.

Whether it’s a pleasant experience or a painful experience we treat it the same way.

Cognitively, mindfulness is aware that certain experiences are pleasant and some are unpleasant, but on an emotional level we simply don’t react. We call this “equanimity” — stillness and balance of mind.

Comments

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Comment from Jamie Tillery
Time: September 4, 2007, 12:36 pm

I was looking for a good site to describe mindfulness, I’m glad I found this one.

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Comment from Sally
Time: September 10, 2008, 12:56 pm

ah, now i understand why my support worker is so keen for me to fathom this technique to combat my eating disorder! thanks!

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Pingback from What is mindfulness? « Advice For Life
Time: December 11, 2008, 4:44 pm

[…] Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. As we indulge in these kinds of thoughts we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves to suffer. By purposefully directing our awareness away from such thoughts and towards some “anchor” we decrease their effect on our lives and we create instead a space of freedom where calmness and contentment can grow. http://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/what-is-mindfulness […]

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Pingback from Clean Floor, Oh Yeah! | TechnoEarthMama
Time: January 3, 2009, 5:14 pm

[…] think mindfulness is going to take a lot of re-training for my brain. Author Jon Kabat-Zinn says “Mindfulness […]

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Comment from ruth
Time: April 12, 2009, 2:32 pm

Hello Bodhipaksa
Greetings from London and thank you for an inspiring site!
This might sound an odd question, but I wondered whether you might have any suggestions as to how to deal with what the Germans call an ‘ear-worm’, that is a catchy tune that you can’t get out of your head – worst of all, an advertising jingle? For me, it’s much harder to shift focus away from this ‘inner tune’ than it is from words – perhaps because there’s a tune to fit most rhythmic activities, from walking to counting breaths…
Thank you again, all best, Ruth

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 13, 2009, 11:54 am

I find the best way to deal with a tune that’s stuck in my head is to listen very carefully to what’s going on around me. I find it’s impossible to be 100% attentive to external sounds and also to generate internal sounds. When the music reappears, this acts as a mindfulness bell, reminding me that I’m no longer paying attention to the sounds around me.

Sometimes as well, however, there’s some message encoded in the lyrics or title of the song. When this happens it’s as if I’m trying to tell myself something. So sometimes it’s worth reflecting on the content.

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Comment from ruth
Time: April 13, 2009, 4:51 pm

thank you for your speedy reply – I look forward to experimenting with your suggestions! best wishes, Ruth

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Time: November 28, 2009, 10:14 pm

[…] rational in your parenting and emotional stability. Here are more details on mindfulness, please use this link to get the details on it. You also can glean blessings from the Lord, but only if you seek Him for […]

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Pingback from Anxious Wife, Depressed Husband; Help! | Mormon Bloggers
Time: December 12, 2009, 12:51 am

[…] rational in your parenting and emotional stability. Here are more details on mindfulness, please use this link to get the details on it. You also can glean blessings from the Lord, but only if you seek Him for […]

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Comment from Rodger
Time: January 12, 2010, 6:18 pm

I was injured 6 years ago in a logging accident through my rehabilitation process I have discovered mindfulness. As mindfulness is still new to me I have however discovered how to pace my daily activities to aleviate much of my pain with the help of breathing and time management . I for some reason have an ability to minimize my pain in virtually seconds by being mindfull with the help of breathing. If I am able to kill my pain in seconds with my breath is there not a way to learn how to heal sickness or some injuries with mindfulness and breath with the help of the brain as an instrumental tool in this process.

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Comment from Sunada
Time: January 13, 2010, 6:34 pm

Hi Rodger,
That’s great that you’ve been able to recover so well. I do agree with your point that mindfulness is a great help in the healing process, but only up to a point. Let’s be realistic about what the true powers of mindfulness are. When we are mindful of our body, we become more attuned to the body’s natural processes, and learn how to support them better. Yes, this can definitely help us to heal more quickly. And it’s great that the medical field is starting to incorporate more of this type of approach.

But mindfulness in itself has no magical qualities that will allow us to heal sickness or injury beyond what nature itself could do. We’re simply becoming more attuned to nature, and helping it along as its steward. In other words, we can’t make nature bend to the wishes of our egos. We can’t speed up the healing process to meet our desired timetable, or make all pain go away, for example.

So to the extent that we learn to accept and understand the greater powers of nature, and live by its rules, mindfulness is definitely a great helper in the healing process. But I hope you see that we can’t bend the laws of nature beyond their original design!

Best wishes,
Sunada Takagi
http://www.mindfulpurpose.com

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Comment from Rodger
Time: January 14, 2010, 12:02 am

Thank you for your response. As I am still learning about mindfulness hopefully this makes sense and comes out right. It makes sense that mindfulness has no magical qualities to heal but does help. It is I who through the understanding of nature and life choose the paths I follow if I have that right. Each path consists of hundreds if not thousands of steps, each step I choose to take is a little part of this wonderful thing called life that surrounds me.

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Comment from Anabel
Time: April 18, 2010, 9:55 pm

How can “minfulness” help a person with an eating disorder?
I appreciate your advice and your insight.
…das~

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 19, 2010, 9:46 am

Hi Anabel,

I’ve never studied the application of mindfulness to eating disorders, although I know that work has been done in that field.

But in principle, with mindfulness, we can become more aware of the emotional triggers and the thought-patterns that lead to the disordered eating. We can begin to catch ourselves earlier and earlier, until we can intervene before the pattern leading to disordered eating gets to the point of no return. Mindfulness brings us more freedom, so that we’re less at the mercy of automatic habits.

This works with other unhelpful habits like anger flare-ups. For example, let’s say that in certain situations we feel hurt, and explosive anger results. Mindfulness allows us to see that the hurt is there, and to just be with it. We become able to let the hurt pass through (these things are always impermanent) until we feel at peace. The anger, which is just a habitual (and unhelpful) way of trying to protect ourselves from hurt, just doesn’t happen.

Disordered eating is a similar pattern, starting with a stimulus that leads to an uncomfortable feeling, that we then attempt to deal with with food. And mindfulness works in the same way as in the example above, allowing us to intervene early on and prevent the habit from manifesting.

You might want to check out The Center for Mindful Eating: http://www.tcme.org/ and see what resources they have available.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Anabel
Time: April 20, 2010, 8:13 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa,
I can see how mindfulness can help with many automatic habits, thanks to your simple yet profound response. I’m very interested in this topic, not only for myself but to aid others including children achieve freedom from destructive actions.
I will also look into the link you provided.
Divine blessings,
…das~

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 21, 2010, 11:18 am

Hi Anabel,

You might also want to check out the following news story on how mindfulness can be used to treat addictions: http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/news/researchers-see-promise-in-treating-addictive-behaviors-with-mindfulness-meditation

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Time: July 11, 2010, 12:14 am

[…] teachers, and Skype communities. And then there is the life you are living in your very own head. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present […]

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Pingback from Learning Thai (for the shy) | Thai Glam
Time: July 24, 2010, 2:38 pm

[…] teachers, and Skype communities. And then there is the life you are living in your very own head. Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present […]

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Time: July 30, 2010, 12:12 pm

[…] adjustment and for the duration of my short jaunt up the street to the beach, I decided to practice mindfulness- take note of things I’d never noticed before in the years I’ve been coming here. Since […]

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Pingback from Mindfulness – don’t wait for a crisis | Lucyinnovation's Blog
Time: September 11, 2010, 7:25 am

[…] Mindfulness is a form of meditation, a technique that focuses particular attention to a purpose (which is different from just being aware of the purpose) non judgmentally in the present moment. […]

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Comment from ailanthus
Time: January 4, 2011, 4:08 pm

How would you distinguish mindfulness from reflection, and reflection from ordinary thinking?

I ask because I’m sometimes confused by ambiguous terminology. For example, “meditation” can mean one-pointed concentration on, say, the breath; however, I also read about “meditation” on a concept like impermanence or an emotion like fear. That in turn seems distinct both from mindfulness, which is closer to a nonclinging, nondirective awareness of sensation, thought, and feeling; from reflection, which actively pursues a line of inquiry; and from ordinary thinking, which is more haphazard and associative. What I’m calling “reflection” seems somewhat like the second usage of “meditation” above, a sort of middle state that partakes of both concentration and open awareness.

So for instance, would it be accurate to interpret advice to “meditate on” impermanence—with or without study aids like a real or imaginary corpse—as a suggestion to reflect on it? And is that a practice separate from, if complementary to, one-pointed concentration?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 11, 2011, 10:30 pm

The terminology often is ambiguous, and it may be used in different ways by different traditions or teachers.

To take the first three terms you flag: mindfulness, reflection, and ordinary thinking:

Ordinary thinking is usually done without mindfulness, by which I mean without an awareness, during the act of thinking, that we are thinking, and without an awareness, again during the act of thinking, of whether the thinking we are doing is helpful/unhelpful, purposeful/distracting, kindly/unkind, etc.

I’ve already incidentally described mindfulness: a kind of in-the-moment watchfulness and evaluation. Mindfulness can be applied in different ways. We can choose to be mindful of one particular thing (our thoughts, or a particular physical sensation, for example) or we can choose to have more of an open focus, being aware of a broad range of sensations without necessarily paying particular attention to any one of them. It’s like a flashlight that can either be set to a narrow or a diffuse beam. These two different approaches lead, in my experience, to different kinds of meditative experiences, with one-pointed concentration leading to the four jhanas, and open-focus attention leading to the non-dual realm of the ayatanas (often, and mistakenly, in my opinion, called the “formless jhanas”).

Reflection I’d describe as “mindful thinking,” where we’re thinking as a conscious act. We may be reading, or reflecting on our experience, or guiding ourselves through a traditional reflection such as the six elements. Mindfulness is present, but there’s also directedness, in the sense that there is a purpose to the thinking and we are attempting to stay on the track of that purpose while reflecting.

“Meditation” is a very broad term. Some practices lend themselves to an open-focus approach (one could hardly do walking meditation in a state of complete one-pointedness) while others lend themselves more to one-pointedness. I think of the two approaches as being complementary.

Advice to “meditate on impermanence” I’d have to take as a suggestion to reflect on it in the kinds of ways you suggest, otherwise the instruction would be something like “notice impermanence” (noticing wouldn’t involve reflecting — just noting that our experiences are changing). Again, I think both approaches are complementary.

I hope this is helpful.

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Pingback from Bitter Amalgamations » Blog Archive » At this point, I’ve given up trying to understand how quickly time goes by
Time: May 2, 2011, 11:53 am

[…] heart, rather than simply freaking out or running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  Mindfulness is a good quality to cultivate for all of […]

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Pingback from Release your stress – Part 2
Time: July 14, 2011, 4:48 am

[…] Mindfulness is paying purposeful attention to the present moment. It is not just an awareness of what you are doing and thinking but being completely attentive to the finer experiential details without judgement. […]

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Comment from Melolo
Time: July 27, 2011, 12:56 am

How do you be mindful without being caught in the attempt to be mindful? For example, if you freeze up or get anxious, because you are taking it very seriously?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 27, 2011, 10:31 pm

Hi, Melolo.

That’s going to happen sometimes, especially early on. There can be “instant supression” and everything becomes kind of wooden. It’s something that get worked through with practice, like with anything else. You know when you’re first learning to drive? Everything is clunky, and you keep freezing and getting flustered? And you keep practicing and eventually your driving becomes flawless and effortless? It’s like that with practicing mindfulness as well.

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Comment from Melolo
Time: July 28, 2011, 6:43 pm

Thanks! It helps to know that. It really is a clunky process at first.

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Time: February 23, 2012, 12:24 pm

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Time: February 28, 2012, 3:07 am

[…] program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, describes Mindfulness in this manner(1): “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and […]

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Comment from wonderingn mind
Time: March 26, 2012, 6:32 pm

i wish this was around when i was in the 4th grade i would know much more than i know now. teacher would be teaching and i had as many as a 101 thoughts going thru my mind.

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Pingback from Mindfulness, the Art/Science/Definition/Wiki Quote? : Unknown Ink Design
Time: July 21, 2012, 11:39 am

[…] Mindfulness: Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. … Mostly these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists. The future is just a fantasy until it happens. The one moment we actually can experience — the present moment — is the one we seem most to avoid. […]

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Comment from ari
Time: August 16, 2012, 5:59 pm

Hi, Hopefully someone can carify this, I don’t understand:
I have just read that I am supposed to exercise by paying attention to breathing…and every time when my mind wonders (which happens a lot and I notice other sensations, like tight chest)…I should direct my attention back to breathing as the plurpose is to not to pay attention to those other things…and …this is where I struggle understanding: yet at the same time I read that I actually should notice and learn about those anxiety symptoms, like tight chest etc…!
Surely if I pay attention to those symptoms I have not been paying attention to breathing! If I want to notice the symptoms I will literally want my mind to wonder from breathing…Am I supposed to try and resist paying attention to symptos or am I supposed to pay attention to them and breathing??? Help me please, to make sense to this which now does not make sense to me…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 16, 2012, 8:28 pm

Hi, Ari.

Generally, we when the mind gets distracted we bring our attention back to the breathing. And this often works. You keep getting distracted by certain thoughts, you keep letting go of the thoughts and returning to the breathing, and in time the amount of thinking decreases.

But when there are particularly strong experiences that our attention is drawn to over and over, then it’s a good idea to figure out a better way to deal with the situation. And then it’s often appropriate to give the stimulus, whether it’s a sound, an emotion, or a physical sensation like tightness in the chest, your attention.

And if you do that, then you may or may not be paying attention to your breathing. That’s not a big deal. The purpose of meditating is to develop mindfulness, and you can develop mindfulness by paying attention to things other than the breathing.

Sometimes you’ll be paying attention to the breathing and the sensation. For example you may have a pain somewhere in the body and you find it’s helpful to imagine the breath flowing around and through the part of the body that’s sore. Or if your chest is tight it’s pretty difficult to notice the chest and not the breathing.

But other times you may not notice the breathing much at all.

Is this helpful?

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Comment from ari
Time: August 18, 2012, 2:16 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa,

thank you for the comment, that was heplful indeed! It really clarified the basic idea of how to pay attention, and it starts to make sense…So, basically I can choose where my attention is – and then when distracted from that thing-can bring back attention to that thing, whether it was breathing or something else…

I hope you don’t mind if I still try to clarify a bit more: Do I understand the breathing exercise correctly? This is how I understand it now:

When I do my breathing exercise, and I have distracting thoughts coming…and I keep bringing my attention back to breathing. I try to keep my attention in breathing but it wanders…What happens is: I try to be mindful about breathing…develop mindfulnes as it were, but I also notice -or observe- those distracting thoughts..so in that situation, I do notice those other things, but as if I am just observing them coming and going…and choose to come back to paying attention to my bretahing…

Thanks for your help,

Ari

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 18, 2012, 4:19 pm

That sounds good.

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Time: August 29, 2012, 5:34 pm

[…] in some respects this blog is good – it is making me more self-aware. More mindful. There is something about writing things down, and looking back, that is better than just […]

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Pingback from Mindfulness, the Art/Science/Definition/Wiki Quote? | Phthalo Blue
Time: October 4, 2012, 1:09 am

[…] Mindfulness: Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. … Mostly these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists. The future is just a fantasy until it happens. The one moment we actually can experience — the present moment — is the one we seem most to avoid. […]

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Pingback from Mindfulness, the Art/Science/Definition/Wiki Quote? | Unknown Ink Design
Time: October 24, 2012, 7:18 pm

[…] Mindfulness: Left to itself the mind wanders through all kinds of thoughts — including thoughts expressing anger, craving, depression, revenge, self-pity, etc. … Mostly these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists. The future is just a fantasy until it happens. The one moment we actually can experience — the present moment — is the one we seem most to avoid. […]

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Comment from Saryou
Time: November 5, 2012, 12:38 pm

I am for meditation, but I don’t think focusing on breathing works, I have tried it. We easily follow an interesting movie with all out attention, but our attention wanders all over when watching a boring movie or a blank screen. Some people can train themselves to look at a blank screen/ breathing but it is not for every one, perhaps only monks who dedicate their life to this and live a regimented life centered on this.

Sorry if I am not bullish about such mindfull meditation, but may be there is something that works for the lay man. If we change the object of the focus in meditation it works, at least for me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 5, 2012, 12:59 pm

Of course your mind wanders when you pay attention to your breathing. That’s what’s meant to happen :)

And when it does, you’re meant to bring your awareness back to the breathing. That’s where the training lies.

I have sympathy for your view, though. I think a lot of people have a very narrow understanding of what the breathing is, and so they’re trying to stay focused on a very narrow range of sensations. I encourage people, these days, to have a very full experience of attending to the breathing, as I outline in this article. Of course the mind still wanders, but I find it does so less than if you’re only paying attention to a narrow range of sensations.

But also, most of the clinical trials of meditation (which show that it “works”) have been done with variants of mindfulness of breathing. I’m afraid your anecdotal evidence doesn’t count for much when weighed against those statistics. I don’t know how long you tried practicing mindfulness of breathing, or how much effort you put into refining what you do in your practice, but I’d suggest that more perseverance and a bit more investigation would pay off.

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Comment from amar
Time: December 6, 2012, 10:38 pm

I am suffering from anxiety disorder. Can this technique restore my mental health?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: December 7, 2012, 12:02 am

Mindfulness can definitely help with anxiety.

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Comment from ash
Time: March 18, 2013, 10:29 pm

i am a student and i have got a presentation on mindfullness can you please help me

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 18, 2013, 11:06 pm

Hi. We have an entire website of information here. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful.

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Time: April 9, 2013, 4:02 pm

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Comment from dev
Time: April 13, 2013, 6:31 pm

Thx, Excellent description !

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Time: April 24, 2013, 9:25 am

[…] others have noticed, ahem, my husband) that i would really like to make different. i am a big mindfulness fan and since mindfulness and being intentional go hand and hand i think it’s a great place […]

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Time: May 6, 2013, 12:34 pm

[…] while playing.  In fact, this is a very ancient truth, understood by practitioners of meditation1 and a recently rediscovered truth in the field of psychology2.  In meditation, what we need to […]

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Comment from KM
Time: May 15, 2013, 10:00 pm

Hi, thank you for your explanations for mindfulness above. I hope to clarify something about mindfulness, I found this online:
“If you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is Mindfulness. If you then conceptualize the process and say to yourself, “Oh, I am remembering”, that is thinking. ”

I am confused, if I am doing administrative jobs like sorting information I need to conceptualize things and facts, If I am mindful administrating that means I am aware that I am conceptualizing things and facts? If I am aware that I am doing it, am I being mindful or just thinking.

1 more question, i heard some people says mindfulness is “no-self”, however when I am mindfully thinking, when I aware that I remember some facts, I aware that thoughts like “Oh I remember.” will appear. Is that means I am not mindful, that because there is still a “self” component?
Thank you for reading, looking forward for your precious insights.

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Pingback from Developing a Technique to Improve Your Talent | CelloBello Blog
Time: May 20, 2013, 6:08 am

[…] while playing.  In fact, this is a very ancient truth, understood by practitioners of meditation1 and a recently rediscovered truth in the field of psychology2.  In meditation, what we need to […]

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Comment from Mbuti Kusekwa
Time: June 8, 2013, 12:09 pm

i have been trying to be mindful all the time but it seems as if it needs that all the time i should pull back my thoughts to the present is there any shortcut way to make me easier to be mindful,should it be the life long practice,or will one day be naturally done.

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Comment from Kris
Time: June 13, 2013, 9:24 pm

I do hot yoga so I’m mindful of my breathing that keeps me focused on the present..doing hot yoga. I think that being able to focus is probably a first step to mindfulness that is more meditative.

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Comment from Gord
Time: July 5, 2013, 9:07 pm

Became aware of and practiced mindfulness about 4 years ago for about 4 months with limited success. Have been prescribed a number of different meds over the past few years for panic disorder, social anxiety and depression. The side effects have ranged from increased anxiety to a vegetative state. Is it possible that mindfulness training could be of benefit to me and is the training available online as I live in a rural area?

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Time: July 25, 2013, 2:49 pm

[…] via What is mindfulness? | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation. […]

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Pingback from – The Shocking Truth About Happiness – Musings of a Van Dweller
Time: August 14, 2013, 8:29 am

[…] stillness, love, patience and acceptance.  We can practice these virtues through mindfulness, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way” ~ Jon Kabat Zinn.  Pay attention to your actions, behaviours, speech, and […]

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Time: August 14, 2013, 3:06 pm

[…] Mindfulness is having the presence of mind to control one’s emotions and behavior.  Some would say mindfulness is the ultimate coping mechanism. Mindfulness is achieved through meditation, therapy, yoga, or a combination of all three.  Mindfulness comes more naturally to some people than others, but it can certainly be learned.  To learn mindfulness means: […]

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Pingback from Ready, Set…Meditate | Jordan Rosenfeld
Time: September 1, 2013, 12:37 pm

[…] Mindfulness […]

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Pingback from The Productive Adult With ADHD: 20 Tricks to Get Boring Things Done | The Art of ADD
Time: September 5, 2013, 11:06 am

[…] Mindfulness means focusing on presence by using your senses. Notice the way your fingers move intuitively as you type, or the pitch of the lawnmower as it chews up the grass.  […]

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Comment from Deepak
Time: September 25, 2013, 2:05 pm

Hi,
Really nice explanation. I feel like some of the articles in other websites are misinterpreting mindfulness.
Personally I am able to do this by letting go of my thoughts and just looking at some object around me. At that point of time, I become positive, confident, am aware of my body language, etc and feel like every moment is an experience.

Paying attention to my breathing though has never worked for me.

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Pingback from Mindfulness is what? | Living Mindfully
Time: October 9, 2013, 9:12 pm

[…] “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, non judgmentally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn.  […]

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Pingback from Buddhism, Spirituality | Brain, Body, Because
Time: October 24, 2013, 8:37 pm

[…] Studying Buddhism has definitely made me more mindful in little ways. While meditating, I’m more aware of sounds, smells, and sensations. While eating, I focus more on the tastes and textures of my food. While speaking, I often question if I truly believe my words or if I’m simply parroting something that I heard once (more). […]

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Comment from Lute
Time: November 14, 2013, 3:26 pm

I’m absolutely new to this whole mindfulness thing, and it’s raising lots of questions.
The first is: if I am constantly being mindful, of the present, of the feeling of the keyboard under my fingertips, of my breathing, etc., then how do I get anything done? If thoughts are just thoughts to accept and let pass, then how do I do anything except just sit and observe my breathing? If mindfulness is just meant to occur during meditation, I might understand, but I thought (forgive me if I’m wrong) that the aim is to be constantly mindful? So I’m focussing on my breathing, and I think “it’s probably time to go to work now”… but that’s just another thought to accept and let go – so how do I do the work I want to do, or cook dinner, or do any of the other tasks that need to happen during the day, and remain mindful at the same time? In particular, how do I do work that is intellectual? I can be mindful and present while I’m cooking, but how do I be mindful and present while I’m writing an email, or figuring out what a chart means – things that require full mental attention? How do you practice mindfulness while you reply to questions on this website, for example? I appreciate any clarification you can provide on this point.

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Comment from Simon
Time: November 14, 2013, 5:32 pm

I was liking the sound of this until the last section – it sounds as though mindfulness can leave you cold and unfeeling. I’d like to achieve balance and perspective and not allow negative emotions to take over but I’d still like to enjoy pleasant experiences on an emotional level! Does no more despair/upset mean no more elation/joy? If so, I don’t think it’s for me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 14, 2013, 8:48 pm

Mindfulness is quite the contrary to a cold an unfeeling state. When the article says “We simply accept whatever arises. We observe it mindfully. We notice it arising, passing through us, and ceasing to exist,” this includes experiences of joy as well. Joy arises, and we enjoy it — fully — while it lasts, but we don’t cling to it, so we don’t get disappointed when it ends. But to my mind the word “elation” which you obviously have positive associations with, isn’t a very mindful state. TO my mind elation is a kind of intoxication with joy, which leads to a loss of balance and sensitivity to others, and to a post-elation “crash.” Of course you may understand something quite different by the word “elation.”

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 14, 2013, 8:55 pm

A little common sense is in order. If your intention is to type something, then yes, you can be mindful of the keyboard under your fingertips, but you’ll be most mindful of that which is most central to your task, which is to write. So you’ll be aware of the words as they appear, and to your evaluations of whether they’re spelled correctly, whether you’re saying what you want to say, whether your sentences are well formed or clumsy, etc. And if thoughts unrelated to your task arise — “I wonder what’s happening on Facebook?” — you might notice them and let them pass.

If you have the thought “it’s probably time to go to work now” and it is time to go to work, then go to work. Just let go of thoughts that are irrelevant to your purpose. If you think “it’s probably time to go to work now” and it’s time to go to work, and another thought comes up, like “I can’t be bothered going to work today” then you might let the thought pass, notice the sense or resistance, and mindfully go to work.

Most often the thoughts we’re letting go of are anxious, angry, or simply taking us out of our present-moment experience. Just let them go.

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Pingback from Meditation is not what you think… literally «
Time: November 21, 2013, 4:48 am

[…] Western society, the first style of meditation that is often taught, called mindfulness or focused attention practice, involves trying to maintain your attention on the feeling of your […]

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Pingback from Mindfulness: Prevention vs. Damage Control | Pen to the Paper
Time: January 5, 2014, 10:27 am

[…] and appreciate the things I see. Much of this perspective shift I attribute to the practice of mindfulness, and it’s because of this that I now am heavily involved with a growing mindfulness-based […]

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Pingback from Living Prayer |
Time: January 5, 2014, 1:11 pm

[…] MINDFULNESS – if you could add one practice into your life, that would change everything as you know it, it would be living from a place of mindfulness.  The Dalai Lama spoke about Ethical Mindfulness in Everyday Life, during his June 2013 visit to Australia. This video is just under three hours, but worth scheduling in.  (Actually Mindfulness should get a post of its own, but it really wants to be a part of Team Prayer right now) […]

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Pingback from Back to the trail-head – Mindfulness | Trails in the Woods
Time: January 5, 2014, 5:31 pm

[…] Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience. Bodhipaksa […]

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Comment from Mike
Time: January 6, 2014, 11:55 pm

Hello!
Im new and I’m having a hard time understanding a concept. When I think of someone who is in the present moment, they are completely aware of what’s happening around them. For example, someone could not sneak up on them or when prompted, they can immediately participate in a conversation that is happening in front of them. It seems as though if you are being mindful of your thoughts, emotions, senses, etc that you are not necessarily aware of everything that’s happening around you also. So, can you be mindful of the experience of eating ice cream and be aware of the person taking a walk off in the distance? Or does the term ‘in the present moment’ mean whatever experience you choose to be mindful of? Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 7, 2014, 1:26 pm

You might find this article helpful.

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Comment from cate
Time: January 10, 2014, 3:05 pm

if mindfulness is deliberately noticing things and sensations,living in the present ,then why do you need to just focus on breathing ? why not just focus on all the things that are happening,listening to sounds , noticing all the bodily function etc.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 10, 2014, 11:36 pm

Well, you don’t just focus on your breathing. You notice other things as well. But what focusing on your breathing does is teach you to develop steadiness of attention, so that you can be more continuously mindful.

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Comment from menlo
Time: January 12, 2014, 5:05 am

@cate: That works for me….I generally breath through my mouth ….so its difficult for me to focus on breathing…..So I focus on things that are happening and objects around me…..and once im being mindful,…there is sudden awareness about my breathing and body language..

Actually when I am watching movie….I am not even blinking….but when I am mindful….I actually realize i need to blink my eyes

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Comment from Blue
Time: January 26, 2014, 6:17 pm

As far as I can tell from studying all the major religions, you aren’t supposed to enjoy yourself at all (especially not sexually). How does this square up with mindfulness? Am I allowed to enjoy sex if I’m mindful about it? Or is it still a sin? Ps. Not a troll. Genuinely confused.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 27, 2014, 10:15 am

It’s a good question. Buddhism doesn’t say you shouldn’t experience pleasure. It says that you shouldn’t get attached to pleasure. That can mean many things, including not getting upset when pleasure passes, not craving to have pleasure, not trying to get pleasure in ways that are destructive, etc.

If you’re a monk or nun, then the rule is no sex. It’s just too much of a distraction — the sex itself, plus the relationship aspect (those are always complicated), plus the possibility of having kids. If you’re a householder Buddhist then there are precepts to guide your sexual activity. So it’s fine to have sex (there is no concept of sin in Buddhism) but you should make sure that you don’t hurt others by, for example, getting involved in someone else’s exclusive relationship, or by having sex with someone inappropriate (they’re too young, say), or by having sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you.

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Pingback from Mindfulness: 3 key reasons why you need it at work. | LEANNE FAULKNER
Time: February 5, 2014, 1:45 am

[…] in the moment PLUS worry about work demands simultaneously. Of course, the key here is to be purposfully aware of your current emotions and choose to navigate them to a more peaceful […]

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Pingback from Silence
Time: February 13, 2014, 8:48 pm

[…] I’ve been working a lot on being intentionally mindful about how I’m processing information these days. There is a lot of awkwardness among my working community right now as we are collectively working on becoming a stronger staff. We are being vulnerable and open with one another, and that is so hard for me, especially with my tendency to overthink and over process everything while also adhering to my truthfulness policy.* Being mindful means that I am trying to compartmentalize my thinking and give actual credence only to thoughts that are relevant to the greater picture and the present moment. To primarily thinking about living where I am now and not over processing what has happened. I shouldn’t focus more on a small issue that happened at work over something my kids or husband are doing right now. I don’t live at my job- I work to support my family, my life is not all about my job. My job shouldn’t be allowed to infect my nights and time away from work with worries about my students, my parent community or my colleagues. I’m working to look at things with a perspective of common sense and what is normal. I’m working to keep things in perspective. I’m working on mindfulness. […]

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Pingback from Psychology of Performance 44: Mindfulness | Tips for Wellbeing
Time: February 27, 2014, 12:04 pm

[…] Mindfulness receives a significant amount of attention and discussion throughout the media.  Mindfulness is the practice of attending to one’s experience in the present moment in a non-attached manner. The experiences may include thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and external stimuli. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined it as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmental.” (source: http://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/what-is-mindfulness) […]

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Pingback from My Paths to Conscious Living | A More Conscious Life
Time: March 15, 2014, 1:52 pm

[…] more about Mindfulness here: What Is Mindfulness?  Or here What is Mindfulness? Or here: Wake Up! A Guide to Living Your Life […]

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Pingback from More about Mindfulness | Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty
Time: April 3, 2014, 9:40 am

[…] usually associate with meditation.  One of my favourite mindfulness teachers and practioners, Bodhipaksa, has an article in which he defines mindfulness like this: “the gentle effort to be […]

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Pingback from Release your stress – part 2
Time: April 24, 2014, 8:17 pm

[…] Mindfulness is paying purposeful attention to the present moment. It is not just an awareness of what you are doing and thinking but being completely attentive to the finer experiential details without judgement. […]

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Pingback from Top 5 Reasons Why We Procrastinate
Time: May 6, 2014, 11:27 pm

[…] of the most effective ways to deal with this barrier is to cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means paying attention to everything that exists in this moment (both inside and outside ourselves) […]

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Pingback from Part 1: A mindful answer to a major oversight – Nature isn’t an optional extra | HumaNature Connect
Time: May 12, 2014, 3:53 am

[…] Don’t be confused, the word mindfulness is not the same as awareness and a good simple description of the difference is provided by Wildmind Buddhist Centre: […]

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Pingback from Mindfulness Awareness – Quran Reflection
Time: May 15, 2014, 12:50 am

[…] allows the mind to relax and reduce stress.  For more information, you can look at the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of […]

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Comment from lib
Time: June 11, 2014, 1:54 am

I think I’m not grasping the point of this. My psychologist instructs me to practice it. I usually read and think about abstract theories for fun, If I’m into something I do not look up from what I’m conceptualizing for up to 24 hours (taking laptop with me when need to use toilet). Why should I want to not do this, and sit and think about the physical sensations in my body, or the movement of my toothbrush back and forth in my mouth? This is not interesting or enjoyable. Is the goal not to have thoughts or opinions? why should I not want to analyse and make judgments? I can escape the pains of the physical into fantasy so why would I not? I don’t see the benefit, it seems awfully depressing. I’ve googled but perhaps i need someone to explain specifically whatever I am apparently missing. Thanks.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: June 11, 2014, 10:53 am

I’m assuming that you’re seeing a psychologist for a reason. Usually those reasons are to do with unhappiness or with there being some difficulty in our lives that we need help with. I think it’s pretty much guaranteed that being more mindful would help you with that unhappiness or those difficulties.

No one’s asking you to think about the physical sensations in your body. That would not be mindfulness.

You are afraid that mindfulness would take things away from you that bring you pleasure. Mindfulness is a form of awareness that gives us choice. What you choose to do is up to you. You can choose to be so caught up in your computer activities that you take your laptop to the bathroom with you, but you can also choose not to do that if you find that other activities are better for you. Mindfulness gives us choice. It doesn’t take it away.

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Pingback from Mindfulness – An Alternative Approach to ADA
Time: June 25, 2014, 10:22 am

[…] a really, really good description on the difference between simple awareness and mindfulness. What is mindfulness? | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation I think everybody should read […]

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Comment from Than Soe
Time: August 9, 2014, 7:00 pm

Hello, Dear Bodhipaksa.
Thanks and congratulations for loving kindness and insights! Finding the site you are leading and reading the contents therein is truly beneficial, indeed.
I normally and mostly to be exact, go to the related link shared in my native language, MYANMAR(BURMESE) from where followers can benefit to any levels ranging from the basic, the understanding of Karma to the ultimate, the attainment of Enlightenment, depending on. Given yours,Sir, I truly have a high regard for your metta(lovingkindness), cetana(well-wishing), and thuta(being well-versed)and bhavana(practice for perfection). Pardon me if mine comes short of the totality of yours. Also allow me to reshare one of the treasure utopias as a way of paying homage to all my teachers, even though I still need to come up to the highest form of actually doing so, so far.
Here comes the the Link; http://www.dhammadownload.com
Thanks again.

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Pingback from Mindful Multitasking | creatures of lux
Time: September 16, 2014, 12:26 am

[…] After learning more about multitasking this week, it got me to thinking… Why do we feel the need to fill the space? Is there a way in which we can engage in one task at a time, or sit in stillness for a moment without the need to check Facebook, listen to the radio? This is where mindfulness comes in, a practice I have recently been learning about (read more here). […]

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Pingback from Be The Observer – Pay Attention And Everything Is Your Teacher! | Mastering Today
Time: September 16, 2014, 1:15 pm

[…]  I saw this and just stopped!  Serious contemplation!  “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose,in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” – Jon Kabat – Zinn  This is a great article on mindfulness:  http://www.wildmind.org/applied/daily-life/what-is-mindfulness […]

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Comment from Suzanne
Time: October 2, 2014, 2:32 am

Dear Bodhipaksa, I have a practical question about mindfulness which I have not been able to answer by myself. I’m having problems with the paradox of being present without trying to be present and without thinking about being present. As soon as I start practicing mindfulness, in my mind I start pouring out theories, directing myself, etc. I can observe that this happens, and then my mind puts that observing into language as well, which never ends. To simply go ‘deeper’, ‘observe the reactions of the mind’, or whatever, still requires conscious action and effort based on words/theories, hence in my case these things also get dominated by the mind. So, my attempts at being mindful are active processes which require direction, which turns it into a complete paradox. How to be mindful without trying to be mindful and without conscious theories or directions? Thank you!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 2, 2014, 9:12 am

It sounds, Suzanne, that your idea of “being present without trying to be present” is getting in the way. Did someone tell you that mindfulness is effortless? It can get to that point, just as being able to juggle while riding a unicycle can be effortless. On the way to effortlessness a lot of effort has to be expended.

It also sounds like you’re trying to practice mindfulness of the mind without first developing mindfulness of the body, and so you’re getting lost in your thinking. You’re over-thinking. For now, I’d suggest that you just keep coming back to your breathing (I’m assuming you’re doing some kind of mindfulness of breathing). When you notice you’ve become caught up in thinking, just let go of the train of thought and return to noticing the physical sensations of the breathing. If you find yourself commenting on what you’re doing, this is just more thinking that you’ve been caught up in, and so you let go of that thinking and return to the physical sensations of the breathing.

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Comment from Suzanne
Time: October 3, 2014, 12:36 am

Okay, thank you! I like to put effort in things I value and it is good to know that mindfulness can take at least as much effort as juggling while riding a unicycle. That is indeed how it seems to feel sometimes, though in truth I never tried the unicycle.

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Comment from Misty
Time: October 12, 2014, 12:01 am

I find that the more I try and stay away from a thought or a way of thinking (self-pity, frustration), the more I gravitate toward it. So. What works for me is letting myself go there. Dwell on it. Talk to myself about it, why I’m feeling that way, why I might be right or wrong to feel that way. Overthink it until I’ve exhausted myself on it. And then I can move on. Restricting (or trying to restrict) yourself from a natural thought pathway will only create confusion and frustration. This works for me.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 12, 2014, 6:29 pm

Hi, Misty. Mindfulness isn’t about trying to stay away from thoughts. As far as thoughts go, it involves noticing them when they arise, and having the choice whether to engage with them or not. When a thought is one that we recognize as unhelpful (like the self-pity or frustration you mention) we generally just let go of them by gently turning our attention to something else.

We are also free to reflect on the thought in the ways you mention — for example reflecting how you’re going to feel if you keep indulging in it — but I wouldn’t use the expression “dwell on it” and I wouldn’t recommend “overthinking.” But anyway, all of that can be done mindfully.

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Comment from Mark
Time: October 27, 2014, 7:26 am

It is hard to stick to a mindful routine. I’ve found that what can be really helpful is a gentle reminder to help us to stay mindful every morning as our day starts. The Mindfulness Wake-up Call (http://www.mindful.website) has helped me a lot.

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Pingback from Using Mindfulness to Control Anger | My Blog
Time: November 18, 2014, 1:23 pm

[…] Mindfulness is having the presence of mind to control one’s emotions and behavior.  Some would say mindfulness is the ultimate coping mechanism. Mindfulness is achieved through meditation, therapy, yoga, or a combination of all three.  Mindfulness comes more naturally to some people than others, but it can certainly be learned.  To learn mindfulness means: […]

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