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The Importance of Mindfulness

By: Michael Roeder

The word "mindfulness" refers to the awareness that we can bring to the present moment. When we practice mindfulness, we are simultaneously practicing a number of overlapping skills such as present-moment orientation, non-judgmental thought, letting go, and acceptance. Mindfulness is to be aware. It is to be in touch with your felt experience in each moment.

Mindfulness is really not a complex mystery. We all should be using it on a daily basis for every important decision we make. Think of all the experiences that make up your life. Everything from your first cry for food to your most recent life decision creates a mental 'mindful library' of lessons learned. This mental library is your main resource for decision-making and is instantly retrievable. Making a mindful decision, however, requires being "in the moment" and realizing all the ramifications of that decision. Finding a quiet place to think or meditate can often assist in this process.

The opposite of forgetfulness is mindfulness. Most people are forgetful; they are not always "there" all of the time. A mind gets caught in worries, fears, anger, and regrets. That state of being is called forgetfulness. Mindfulness is when you are truly there, mind and body together. You breathe in and out mindfully, you bring your mind back to your body, and you are in the moment. Mindfulness practice should be enjoyable, not work or effort.

Mindfulness is straightforward. It suggests that the mind is fully aware of what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the fact that our minds so often take flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.

So, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. While mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques. Here are some examples:

  • Seated, walking, standing, and moving meditation.

  • Short pauses of silence we insert into everyday life.

  • Merging meditation practice with other activities, such as yoga or sports.

When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, and gain insight and awareness through observing our own minds.

Mindfulness is not obscure or exotic. It’s familiar to us because it’s what we already do, how we already are. We already have the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are. But we can cultivate these innate qualities.

You don’t need to change; it’s a way of living. But Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress and hurried mistakes in our decision-making, mistakes we often live to regret.

Even a little mindfulness makes our lives better.

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