According to Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Center, mindfulness is "the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment."
Mindfulness must be practiced with conscious intention. It is awareness and acknowledgement of your thoughts and feelings. This is relevant to mental and emotional health because thoughts and feelings can be affected and changed by your conscious intent.
Many people I meet in therapy do not prefer this method of change, or they believe it isn't possible. In the words of one woman who came to see me because her doctor wanted to wean her off methadone, "I can't be expected to control my thoughts." It is possible to control your thoughts, whether you believe it yet or not. Henry Ford said: "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." My response to the woman that day was blunt: "If you feel that strongly about it, then I'm sorry, but you will continue to have the same problems." She never returned.
Imagine for a moment the feeling of hopelessness. Within hopelessness, there is powerlessness - you cannot accept what is happening yet you feel powerless to change it, and so, all hope is lost. Yet, a person who is aware (mindful) of his or her own feeling of powerlessness can then choose to do something about it. For example, you can start by choosing to focus on different, more helpful thoughts. Some helpful, transforming thoughts might be: I have the power to breathe deeply or shallowly. I can choose to get in my car and drive. I have two good legs that I can use to walk. I choose what I eat and drink. My hands can splash cold water on my face. And so on.
The moment of personal power and potential for transformation is always now. And now, it's NOW. And now...NOW.
Through the present moment comes awareness, and through awareness comes conscious choice. Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, neurologist, and author of Man's Search for Meaning, famously stated, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." (You might also see this attitude in motion in the Oscar-winning Italian movie Life Is Beautiful.) This was how Frankl survived a horrific place that would on the outside appear completely hopeless, and the prisoners - utterly powerless. Yet it was his realization that no thing and no one can take away the choice of his own response that led him to change his reality.
In my work, I do not tell people what to do. I use the word consider quiteoften, as in, Consider looking at [such-and-such book], or, Consider noting the times you tell yourself, "I should ______." The woman in the example above was not open to considering personal choice. I talked to her a lot that day about the spirit of trying something new. I asked her to be patient. But I could not choose these things for her. She is proof that every person is empowered with the ability to choose their own response in every single situation. She chose not to come back.
Mindfulness is done through mental action. Action defies powerlessness. As author and mystic Jane Roberts stated, "The point of power is in the present." And so, mindfulness is power, presence, and being "aware and awake." It is choice, action, and focused intention.
In the Tao te Ching ("the Book of the Way and its Power"), Lao Tzu states, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Let each one of us take one mindful step at a time. It is the way.
If you are local to the Eugene-Springfield area and would like to learn more about mindfulness meditation, please see Eugene Insight's page here.
If you are not local, or you just want to learn more about mindfulness without leaving the comfort of your home, please see Palouse Mindfulness. This is a FREE, online, 8-week, multi-media course for your enjoyment and education.