Mindfulness, from the Sanskrit word smritti, literally means remembering. Mindfulness is the cultivation of our present moment awareness in an open, non-judgemental and accepting attitude. Mindfulness is the re-membering, re-connecting the various aspects of our moment-to-moment unfolding experience into a unified whole. Mindfulness is the awareness which arises in such context.
Mindfulness is disengaging from our "automatic pilot" mode of doing and gracefully entering the mode of "being". Mindfulness is experiencing directly. Mindfulness is recognising our psychological patterns and routines. Mindfulness is neither avoidance of unpleasant experiences nor hankering for pleasant experiences, mindfulness rests in acceptance. Mindfulness is the royal road of self development, self growth and self-realisation.
Pause for a moment! Sit up with a straight back, feet flat on the floor, neck, spine and head aligned, bring a gentle smile to your lips. Now take a deep breath in, expanding your abdomen as you breath in, hold this breath for a few seconds, and then gently let-go and release the breath, allowing your awareness to follow the breath all the way out...Repeat this process for several breaths, then gently allow your breath to breathe by itself, then as best as you can bring your awareness to the flow of the breath. Gently holding your attention on the feeling of the breath as it flows in and out through the nostrils. Every time you find your mind has been distracted, notice where it went, and gently bring your focus to the feeling generated with the air flow. Continue as best as you can to hold your attention on the movement of your breath for the next few minutes.
This is a taste of mindfulness, Here and now, the moment-by-moment unfolding anchored in the gentle cycle of your breath. Take a moment to notice how you feel after this short exercise.
You may have noticed during the above exercise how easily your focus was distracted by thoughts, sensation or noise. This is how most of us spend our lives, caught in our "comfortable" psychological patterns, fused with our thoughts and emotions, either re-living something from the past or dreaming of a future. Thus our attention is drawn away from the present moment and is fused with the content of our thoughts, desires or emotions. Mindfulness is stepping out of our automatic pilot, "remembering" to bring our awareness to the only moment we really have, this moment by moment unfolding of our Present Moment subjective experience. A felt experience with qualities of calmness, clarity as a Presence which deepens over time and practice, healing and transforming with every practice.
All learning, all healing and therapy rests upon awareness. Modern psychology has now recognised the profound healing brought about through awareness. Thousands of studies over the past few years have confirmed mindfulness practice to provide healing for depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, insomnia, psychological impact of terminal diseases such as diabetes, cancer etc.
Mindfulness heals because much of our emotional and psychological suffering arises from the "automatic" unconscious reactions and routines. For example, people when they feel anxious may resort to smoking, or turn to alcohol to numb unpleasant emotions or lash out when feeling angry "automatically".
Mindfulness enables us to "take control", to become mindful or aware of patterns of reaction and therefore choose our response rather than react.