What exactly is Mindfulness?

Over the last few years, the concept of Mindfulness has become better known, more studied and more widely publicized. This increase in notoriety certainly has the advantage of allowing many more people to know and practice, but on the other hand can also make it a vulgarized, unclear and often misunderstood concept.

Within those who have no experience with Mindfulness practice, I often observe two extremes: those who receive the concept with the expectation that it is a panacea for all ills and those who deny it for connecting it to various myths around them, namely to a religious, hippie, “fashionable” practice.

Perhaps part of this confusion and misunderstanding is because Mindfulness is itself an extremely simple concept, but usually difficult to cultivate and practice.

We all have the ability to “practice mindfulness” at various times in our lives. It is in fact a basic human capacity, but at the frenetic and distracting pace we live in, we forget to ‘practice’.

Mindfulness is in fact the ability to be present at the moment, consciously aware of what goes on inside us (thoughts, emotions, physical sensations) and around us. And observe that with an attitude of curiosity, kindness, and no judgment.

Mindfulness can also be understood for what it is not. Although some of the mindfulness practices are meditative practices (which over time have also been used for spiritual purposes), Mindfulness is not a religion, nor is it inherently a mystical or spiritual concept. It can be practiced in a perfectly secular manner. Mindfulness is also not clearing our thoughts and denying our emotions. Rather, it is understanding how the mind works and knowing how to welcome and recognize thoughts and emotions to better deal with them. Mindfulness is also not a “treatment” for all ills, it is not a quick fix, it is a practice and as such it requires intention and discipline. And a continuous learning.

To practice Mindfulness, we also don’t have to move away and isolate ourselves from the world. As John Kabat-Zinn (who is responsible for bringing Mindfulness into clinical practice) says: true meditation is in your life. Mindfulness contemplates various types of practice that we will explore in other articles: some dedicated practices such as mindfulness meditation and other integrated practices that aim to bring this quality of mindfulness to the various moments and tasks of life.

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