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Mindfulness is defined as cultivating exquisite attention to the present moment—with openness and without judgment.
Since mindfulness first was studied over 30 years ago, it has become increasingly recognized as a therapeutic remedy to stress and anxiety, and studies have shown many mental and physical health benefits, including chronic pain relief, increased learning potential, greater compassion and happiness. Mindfulness brings about mental clarity, concentration and calmness.
And the practice of mindfulness allows us to become fully alive. Here’s how:
By paying attention to the smallest of detail in our existence, we learn to stay with our experiences, positive or negative, without attachment or struggle. And by staying with our experiences, we find peace, as we release ourselves from the need to control how we experience life.
By engaging fully with the present moment, we deeply experience life – its love, joy, contentment, even the pain and sadness. Our awareness evolves and softens, and we learn to enjoy the entire experience of being alive. Not lost in the past, or in the future, but truly alive in this moment.
By recognizing our thoughts and emotions, we see their transient nature. We realize we do not have to be captive to thoughts and emotions, that we simply can hold an awareness of them. The inner landscape becomes peaceful, allowing us to access our inherent wisdom and intuition.
While the world around us is constantly changing, mindfulness gives us the opportunity to be present with ourselves just as we are. We find stillness, no matter what is going on inside or outside of us. We let go of judgments, and we find wisdom, compassion and equanimity that result from letting go of emotional reactivity.
You can begin to experience mindfulness right now in this moment. Read through the following paragraph and try this simple exercise:
Close your eyes for a few minutes. Bring awareness to your breath. Observe the breath and the body. When the mind wanders, bring it back again to the breath, without judgment. Enjoy the spaciousness of resting in this place of awareness with your breath, and enjoy the stillness of the mind.
Notice what is happening in the moment: any sounds, smells or sensations, and let the breath be the anchor of your attention. Just breathe and be for a few minutes.
When you open your eyes, notice the calmness of body and mind, and note any shift in perception of the things around you.
With practice, mindfulness truly will change your experience of life.