What is mindfulness

What is mindfulness in simple words?
Observing, Noticing, Recognising 

It seems everyone talks about mindfulness now, but truly what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is growing our capacity to practice paying kind, compassionate, non-judgmental attention to what is happening to us inwardly and outwardly in the present moment.

Inwardly:     our thinking process, our thoughts, our emotions and body sensations.

Outwardly:  what is happening around us (including others with and around us, our reactions to them, our reactions to our surroundings, and to what is happening there).

Image by Lesly Juarez
Through practice

Above all else, mindfulness is practice.

There are formal and informal modes of practice. There are many formal meditations such as the Body Scan and Sitting Meditation Practice. Informal mindfulness relates to practicing everyday activities in a mindful way such as mindful eating.

Like the old saying “the finger that points at the moon is not the moon”, mindfulness practices are a way of connecting with what is happening in the here and now.

As we practice being present in our moment-by-moment experiences, we notice what we are doing and how we are being. With mindful practice over time, we become more aware of all the different aspects of our life.

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Without judgement

Mindfulness requires us to observe our experience without making judgements about what we find. And when we notice we are judging, (as we surely will), we practice recognising it and not judging the judgment so to speak.

Instead of evaluating, liking/disliking, resisting, rejecting, we cultivate a curious, kind and compassionate attitude towards ourselves, others and our experience.

This is a radical act of love and cares towards self and others.

  • Radical because we notice our patterns, habits, unexamined thinking, preconceptions and limiting beliefs.

  • Radical because we recognise we can choose our path

  • Radical because, instead of reacting to our thoughts and emotions, we recognise there are other possibilities

  • Radical because we make space for new ways of being.

Image by Sarah Ball
With compassion

Mindfulness encourages us to intentionally and willingly befriend ourselves, our experiences and our circumstances.

You could say we lay down the Welcome mat to all that is present for us as we are right now. Not by passively submitting to our experience, but by noticing and attending to what IS.

This means disengaging our auto-pilot, slowing down, settling into soft observation, and contemplating what is present in a way that is tender and kind. I find it helpful to think of our thoughts and emotions like young children who need our attention. They will keep try, try, trying to be recognised, seen and heard. What our thoughts and emotions need from us is mature, unconditional love.

Image by Dave Lowe
Consciously aware

When we attend to our needs with compassionate curiosity, our inner dialogue changes. As our internal reactions, stories and judgements soften, we find less need to hold onto or resist them. We find it is possible to gently nudge our attention from one moment into the next.

In this space of conscious awareness, we find there are other possibilities hidden in the circumstances of our lives. We experience our potential to shift and surrender to change.

This is why mindfulness offers a true path to freedom and liberation. It invites us to connect with something that is always present and available for us.

Mindfulness allows us to recognise and remember the stillness within, take refuge there and rest in the awareness that we are perfect and whole just as we are.

Image by Khadeeja Yasser
What mindfulness is not!

Mindfulness is not our default mode of operating in the world as a thinking, doing human being.

Mindfulness is not asking us to replace what we tend to call negative thinking with positive, happy thoughts.

Mindfulness is not asking us to be positive and happy all the time.

Mindfulness is not superficial. It is not a means to an end. Not something you can do for a time and then forget about. Mindfulness is about being truthful and authentic with ourselves and others as the moments of our lives unfold.

Mindfulness is not a switch we can turn on because we decide it’s a good idea to be more mindful.

Mindfulness is not that easy—but—mindfulness is also not hard. 
It does take practice. When we commit to mindful practice, we stop battling against what we think is wrong in our life.


Mindfulness does not make what is wrong right. Instead, it allows us to see where, when and how the things we consider wrong belong.

Why practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness is practice.

Mindfulness invites us through practice to use the wisdom of our own body to guide and raise our attention.

Practicing mindful attention enhances our capacity for awareness.

The practice of mindfulness offers us methods, tools and processes we can use in our lives to open up to new ways of relating to ourselves and all that is around us. It’s formal and informal practices are like a gym for our mind.

Just as many of us choose to do physical exercise, mindfulness is something we choose to do by choosing to practice. There is no other way to exercise the muscles of mindfulness that support our transition to living from the inside out.

When we practice mindfulness, we take good care of our internal life. We reduce our reliance on external things and find that external circumstances are not our primary source of joy and contentment.

Image by Milan Popovic

When is the best time to practice mindfulness?

All that happens in our lives is the direct curriculum of mindful living.
Which means we can practice any time and anywhere.

But mindfulness is not something we can switch on in an instant. Life programs us to overthink when we’re busy, and to get lost in thought when we’re not.

It takes intentional practice to be present and become aware.

We can use any of our actions and experiences to practice attentive listening and soft observation which are the muscles of mindfulness. And often the weights that develop inner knowing (and through inner knowing, inner strength) are life’s challenges and hardships.

As our life progresses through time, it is never working against us. In many ways, it is just pointing again and again to what needs our compassionate attention.

Our deep needs are revealed through practicing mindfulness which invites us to meet these needs without resistance and connect with being who we are. Through regular practice, we mature into a deeper relationship with ourselves and all that is happening in our life. This process is ongoing and continues throughout our lives.

Which is how, through time, practicing mindfulness becomes a way of life.

Joyful. Resilient. Always healing. Whole.

Image by Dingzeyu Li

This is it

Always we hope

Someone else has the answer

Some other place will be better,

Some other time

It will all turn out.


This is it.

No one else has the answer.

No other place will be better,

And it has already turned out.


At the centre of your being you have the answer,

You know who you are and you know what you want.


There is no need

To run outside

For better seeing.


Nor to peer from a window.

Rather abide at

The centre of your being

For the more you leave it

The less you learn.


Search your heart

And see

The way to do

Is to be.

― Lao Tzu