The ability to be present and engaged in whatever you are doing in that moment.
Mindfulness is about developing the skills for being more present, rather than living in the past or the future. It is about learning how to change the habits of inattention and distraction, and how to stay in the present moment. This is useful for study. Mindfulness means paying attention with flexibility, openness, and curiosity.
Guidelines for practice
Although mindfulness has great benefits for many conditions that are well researched, there are some mental health conditions that could be unsuitable to practice mindfulness alone. It is important that you seek professional advice, such as Counselling Services La Trobe University for further support and advice.
We can practise mindfulness in the many tasks we do each day, such as brushing our teeth, making lunch, and exercising. Have a look at some of the following skills required for mindfulness practice:
- Observation. Mindfulness is the skill of observing the environment, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and sensations you are experiencing without reacting to them or judging them. As your thoughts come and go, popping in and out, let them, as you gain control of your attention, not what pops up. Cling to nothing, push nothing away.
- Describing. Stay with the raw description of your sensations, emotions, and thoughts. There is no right or wrong, simply what is.
- Participation. Mindfulness requires practice to unhook from worrying thoughts or thoughts of perfection. There is no mastery of mindfulness and it is in doing it for 30 seconds, a minute or more that is the key.
- Non-judgementally. Stay with what is there, not the 'should' or 'musts', the 'good' or the 'right'. Take your thoughts, emotions, and sensations for what they are. Accept them as they come. The habit of judging is hard to break. Try not to be hard on yourself if you notice you judge a lot. It will take time to look at your thoughts, emotions, and images differently.
- One-focus only. Focus on one activity and keep on track with this only, e.g., by focussing on your breath, you use the breath as an anchor, and when your mind wanders you unhook from the distractions and return to the breath.
Meditation is just another way to practice mindfulness and is also very effective. Here are some tips to start meditating:
- Find a comfy, quiet spot to practice
- Set an amount of time to practice each day. Start small at the beginning; 5 or 10 minutes.
- Use one of the resources below to follow along and guide you
Now that you know what mindfulness is about, have a go at using some of these resources to get you started:
Our very own counsellor Cassandra Scicluna has also created a mindful meditation video based at our Melbourne (Bundoora) campus focusing on the calming Nangak Tamboree river. Take a listen.