What Is Mindfulness?

 Mindfulness And The Cat

I'm contemplating the question - what is mindfulness?- but the cat meows insistently as I’m writing; she wants her food and won’t be denied - I’m being disturbed.  

What is it that disturbs me? I feel I have got to transfer my attention from writing to feeding her!

Can I shift my focus to her without being disturbed by having to transfer my attention from the writing?

Can I really see both activities as happening “now” and not be upset by my mind telling me that I’ll forget the important thread of the writing?

Can I be mindful?

The Meaning Of Mindfulness

The meaning of mindfulness has changed for me over the  years. 

To me it used to mean “I’ll remember” – as in “I’m mindful of the fact that your birthday is next week”.

Or it was just the description of a kindness - “she’s very mindful of my situation”.

Or even a critical reminder from my mother, long ago, when I had broken something -“Be mindful of what you’re doing”.

The Full Mind 

When times get tough and your mind is full of “must”, “should”, “why me?” and “I’m not good enough” this type of full mind can spark a feeling of “too much”– give me peace!

Funny enough that feeling of too much "give me peace" is not coming from the “full” mind; it’s coming from somewhere else inside. The full mind is far too busy with the “musts” and “shoulds”. 

This is now my new meaning of mindfulness – being able to accept a busy fearful mind and not being so disturbed by or automatically acting out its constant demands.

Being Disturbed

Of course being "disturbed" is about much more than just the writer and the cat; it can be much more serious than that.

Looking up a definition of "disturbed" you will see it includes, troubled, concerned, distressed and worried – these are the feelings that really disturb us.

In everyday life there are many things that upset our peace of mind and leave us distressed and in pain.

The doctor with bad news for a patient; the fireman and the immediate danger; the leader and the decision affecting many peoples’ lives.

Only you know the areas in your life that bring on distress, worry and even panic.

Only you can find a path to a state that can help you accept and allow these feelings without them overtaking your whole life.  Only you can find a path to a state that can help you accept and allow these feelings without them overtaking your whole life. 

A New Mind State-The Miracle Of Mindfulness.

The day I came across the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn I realized mindfulness is not just a technique to distract a person from the stress of everyday concerns. It is a new mind state. 

In his work he is dealing with people with some very severe problems. 

This was of great interest because if it can work for people with these “chronic” problems surely it can work for the rest of us with “normal” yet sometimes life numbing worries and concerns.

As I began to investigate further I came across phrases such as “an experience of being alive”, “cultivating non – doing” and the “miracle of breathing”.

I began to realize that to answer the question - what is mindfulness? - was in fact quiet difficult.  

But did you ever have an experience of – seeing a sun rise, listing to music, watching your child play – that you found hard to explain? But you felt and saw every bit of that moment in time.

When asked about the experience you may just have said “there are no words to explain”. This was your unique  feeling of being in the moment and your unique answer to the question - what is mindfulness?

So when I realized that there may be no words to fully explain mindfulness I dropped the need to explain and worked on the experience instead.

The Experience

The experience then became more important than the explanation.   

I began to see it as coming from an extension of meditation into everyday life; it even became fun trying to catch myself reacting to what I saw as "unfair criticism" or a lack of understanding of my “important” needs.

I can now handle the cat and am working with some success on the "unfair criticism" and "lack of understanding" of my "important needs".

That “reminder“ from my mother all those years ago “be mindful of what you’re doing” at last means so much more – thanks Mam – now I get it! 

What is mindfulness? - an ancient practice badly needed today!

Please relax and watch these mindfulness images:


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