As someone who has been practicing mindfulness and meditation for several years, I have developed my own definition of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is our ability to be fully present and in the moment, without dwelling on past events nor conjuring up ideas of a future that hasn’t happened nor anything that would pull our attention away from the present moment.
More simply put, my one phrase definition of mindfulness is this:
Wherever you are, be there.
This short phrase is straightforward and elegant mindfulness mantra and definition. Wherever you are, be there. If you are with people or doing something with intentionality, be there. Be there physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Be wherever you are entirely in that moment.
Here are a few scenarios to examine as you think over my mantra.
- If you intend to hang out with friends and eat dinner and you pull out your phone and start texting, are you being where you are or are you simply someplace else mentally?
- If your child is telling you about their science project, are you really being present and listening to them, or are you thinking about tomorrow’s work presentation?
Mindfulness is challenging in this day and age because there are so many things that can pull us away from the present moment.
We are driven to distraction because of the immediacy and urgency our culture has developed around information and entertainment.
We carry around with us devices that hinder us from being mindful by vibrating and sending us frequent notifications seeking to pull our focus away from the present moment.
And yet, mindfulness is necessary for living a meaningful life. This is my conviction. How can we live a meaningful life if we are not attentive to our life? How can we be attentive if we are not present and aware of the many moments that make up a life?
When we dwell too much on the past and worry about the future, our lack of mindfulness deprives us of living fully awake and alive. We let the beautiful moments that we have slip away from us while we are none the wiser. When we allow technology to distract us from the joys and experiences of the present moment, we are allowing ourselves to be robbed of one of life’s most precious resources, our time.
To live a mindful life, we must be vigilant by setting boundaries and becoming aware of how we use technology. We must become aware of where our thoughts take us.
Two useful books I recommend if you want to deepen your understanding of mindfulness and its importance are You Are Here – Discovering the magic of the present moment by Thich Nhat Hanh and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
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I gave You Are Here as a graduation gift to my good friend (now wife) because Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing really helped me transition into adulthood after college and reading him always makes me feel more peaceful. He is incredibly good at highlighting the importance of mindfulness in our everyday lives.
The power of Now was a book my mother highly recommended to me, and when I finally got around to reading it, I wished I would have read it sooner. Eckhart Tolle reminds us that we are not merely our thoughts. He reveals to us the false selves we conceive and helps us find an alternative to the illusions we create for ourselves.
If you have any additional thoughts on the nature of mindfulness, I would love to hear about them! Feel free to leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
And don’t forget, wherever you are, be there.