A Beginners Guide to “Mindfulness”

By John Brant | 1st March 2015
A photo to illustrate the power of mindfullness.

In this article we explore the meditation technique called “mindfulness”.  We take a look at what is meant by mindfulness and some of the reasons it is now becoming so popular.  We have seen a growing interest in “mindfulness” at the retreat and we hold guided workshops to help you experience it for yourself.

What is “mindfulness”

“Mindfulness” is an oxymoron – really it should be called “Mindlessness”. This is because the purpose of “mindfulness” is to drop the mind and move into our senses. There are lots of definitions out there, however it can be defined most concisely as “awareness of the present moment”.  It is a meditation technique which works at allowing us to drop thoughts by becoming more aware of the reality of the present moment.

Awareness and the mind cannot co-exist. The essence of awareness is always grounded in the present moment and the essence of the mind is away from the present moment into the dream world of thought. In fact we can define awareness itself as the cessation of thought.

The reason mindfulness is so popular is that it can allow us to escape from the world of our thoughts and it is our thoughts which are responsible for generating any negativity, stress and agitation. Mindfulness can lead to a deep sense of connection and peace within, and it has become a mainstream approach to dealing with depression and other emotional issues which are associated with negative patterns of the mind.

Mindfulness is an introduction to the subjective world. The mind is rooted in the objective world.  Mindfulness helps us to explore the depths of our individuality through focusing on our own unique experience of our inner and outer worlds.  It helps us to accept the way things are for us – not the way we have been told or think they should be.  All negativity within us is rooted in wanting things to be different than they are.  With mindfulness we can explore the reality of life so it can also help us to fundamentally change our relationship with ourselves and to life itself.

John Kabat-Zinn is a leader in the field of mindfulness and he talks about seven attitudes associated with mindfulness. These attitudes are

Non-judgement

Peace of mind is a natural state once we are able to step away from the temptation to judge events and our surroundings as right or wrong, good or bad.

Patience

Our ego has its own agenda and timescale. The cultivation of patience is important if we are able to trust life and develop an understanding of nature where everything happens in its own time.  Patience helps us to recognize the beauty of every moment – there is no need to rush. Patience is the language of our being.

Beginners Mind

The mind is adept at labelling and conceptionalising the world. However, this can mean the freshness and uniqueness of every moment is missed. Cultivation of the beginner’s mind helps us to relax and reconnect with existence as it is – not how we want or imagine it to be.

Trust

Often our minds get caught up in justifying our actions, or worrying about the future. If we allow ourselves to let go of the need to remain in control we can start to trust that existence is there to support us for our highest good.  We can also then understand that our intuition leads to finding joy in our life.

Non-striving

Grass does not strive to grow, it just grows.  It’s almost that grass seeds know what they are meant for – there is no need to try and be something else. The joy in our lives starts to emerge when we discover that there is no need to strive to be anything other than ourselves.

Acceptance

Resistance is an indication of non-acceptance. Sometimes for the sake of our wellbeing we can benefit from accepting things the way they are. If we are able to combine this with the ability to see the inherent balance in life (no good without bad, no pain without pleasure) and the nature of things to change, inner peace can be found.

Letting go

If we are able to cultivate awareness through alertness and observation, we can let go of resistance to what is and our should’s and shouldn’ts. Letting go enables us to live in the present rather than the past. Forgiveness is a way of taking full responsibility and let go of the past – it sweeps away the cobwebs and allows us to reconnect with life in a new way.

Mindfulness Exercises

In the mindfulness workshop at the retreat we first introduce mindfulness through some breathwork. It is amazing how quick it can be for us to be able to relax and feel more peaceful by being “mindful” of our breath.  What we mean by becoming mindful is to become the observer of the breath – just awareness is all that is necessary. In other words we just empty the mind and watch.  Normally we find this easy for a few moments, but it doesn´t take long until the mind starts to fill up with thoughts and distracts you. However the more we practice, the easier it gets.

We also include exercises in mindful eating. It is amazing how slowing down and having a “beginner´s mind” with our food can change our relationship with it. We also try out mindful walking, when we can focus on a small blade of grass, and exercises that help us to become aware of when our mind is full of thoughts. So if you are struggling with your emotional or mental life then why not try out what some call “the miracle of mindfulness” for yourself!

Learn more about meditation and mindfulness

If you want to read more about mindfulness, you can follow the links below to other articles in our series on mindfulness:
Mindfulness of breath
Mindfulness of emotions
Mindfulness of sensations
Mindfulness of thoughts

We offer meditation sessions most days of the week. Read more about meditation at La Crisalida health and wellbeing retreats here.

Headshot of John Brant - Retreat Founder at La Crisalida Retreats
John Brant

John is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. He leads our life makeover programme as well as overseeing the retreats.

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