When we mention mindfulness, it is easy to associate it with meditation, but considering them to be the same is one of the most common misconceptions we might have about it.
Yes, we can say that mindfulness is a method of practice and there is a number of mindfulness techniques and methods, and meditation is only one of them.
Even considering mindfulness simply as a set of practices would be incomplete and incorrect without the understanding of it as an attitude or approach to life. In this broader concept, mindfulness is an attitude composed of patience, non-judgment, acceptance, trust, the ability to let go, and those approaches that make our lives fuller and richer under various life circumstances.
But are we really present?
Has it ever happened to you to forget someone’s name right after hearing it? Or were you in a meeting where you caught yourself having wandered off and not being there for a while? That is what mindfulness is about.
Mindfulness is not about being positive in every moment, it is about being aware of the present moment and living in the present, and being able to accept the moment and feelings that arise in different moments and under various circumstances.
In Mandarin Chinese, the word for mindfulness is 正念 (zhèng niàn) and it literally means the Present moment. Thus being present is being mindful, as opposed to being distracted, or being wind up in the past or future.
Positivity and happiness that can be experienced while practicing mindfulness are its byproducts, not its goal or main focus.
The most common use of mindfulness is as a method for stress relief, however, mindfulness has holistic benefits, as it doesn’t separate our mind and body and although reading about it and researching can help understand this concept better, mindfulness is not something that can be learned by reading about it. It is something you need to practice for yourself in order to understand it.
It is like watching a yoga lesson but never going down on the mat yourself and trying out postures and breathing techniques, discovering which ones are easy or challenging for YOU, and by observing the lesson believing that you understand what it does to your body.
As learning by doing increases our knowledge and skills, if you are wondering what mindfulness is, chose a method, and give it a try. If meditation is not “your thing”, there are plenty of other forms, such as mindful eating, mindful workout, walking meditations, etc., as long as they help you stay more focused, more present, and, of course, in the present moment.
Author: Ana Smiljkovic, HR and L&D professional helping others improve their soft skills through a growth mindset