Mindfulness is about paying attention, on purpose, to unfolding moment-to-moment experience, while suspending judgment and with acceptance. This is the definition of mindfulness offered by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Embedded within the definition are what we might call navigational tools. At any time, anywhere, we can find our north star, by bringing attention to our moment-to-moment experience. This is really useful when we are experiencing something particularly pleasant, or unpleasant, or we feel lost in any way.
Standing before a glorious sunset, we can calm the incessant chatter of the mind. Feel the feet on the ground, see the colours, feel the emotional response in the body. Fully live that moment in all it’s glory. Reading a child a bedtime story, being with our loved ones, we can be fully there, in all of our senses. Noticing anxiety rise, we have the capacity to perceive the speed of our thoughts, to see them as just thoughts, and to ground ourselves in the direct experience of the body. The body and breath are always present. We can experience the contact of the feet with the ground, notice the flutter in the stomach or chest. We are less carried away by the changing experience of anxiety. We are more grounded. We increase resilience.
Attending an eight-week course supports you in strengthening your ability to pay attention at will. You learn skills and techniques for responding, rather than reacting, to a changing emotional, physical and psychological life. You increase your reliance levels, as well as experience an enrichment of your life in general. The life you already live. This is the beauty of learning to be mindful. It’s not that we need to change our lives, or ourselves, though some changes may be helpful or necessary. It’s more that we learn to live the life we already have in a more skilful, and even joyful way.
David Wagoner in his poem, ‘Lost’ speaks to the power of knowing how to be present.
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.