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What Is Mindfulness?

Live as if you've just been born

Close-up of statue of an Asian lady surrounded by cornflowers and poppies.
The Lady in the garden, representing mindfulness at Evergreen.

I’ve been writing weekly on the general topic of mindfulness for four and a half years and yet I still hesitate to write this particular blog.

I wrote the heading a couple of months ago and it’s been haunting me ever since. Every time I turn on the computer, the little document icon labelled “What is Mindfulness?” flashes at me, daring me to do something about it. Hardly a mindful way to live!

One tricky thing about trying to define mindfulness is that it has become a cliché implying someone sitting on a cushion with legs crossed, eyes closed, and palms upwards on the lap, murmuring om. This ancient practice has proven benefits, but mindfulness has a much larger application. It can be brought to moments when life is going off all around you like firecrackers on New Year’s Eve.

Another tricky thing about mindfulness is that it’s the opposite of what it seems to mean.

Mindfulness isn’t focussing on your mind.

To bring some clarity to this tricky subject, let’s look at the opposite of mindfulness.

Normally, no matter what happens to you, you have a strong, immediate opinion about it. It’s good or bad; it should be, or it shouldn’t be. It’s difficult or disastrous or diabolical. These automatic opinions make you react. You’re jerked about like a clumsy puppet by your thoughts. You become angry or annoyed. You fume or fret. You ridicule or revile. Your emotional reactions follow your thoughts, spewing forth in a volcanic manner reminding bystanders of Mt Vesuvius in 79 CE. This is not mindfulness. This is madness.

So, what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is putting your overactive mind on the back-burner, where it belongs.

Mindfulness is releasing yourself from the painful grip of the overrated and repetitive thoughts that pop up thousands of times a day in reaction to whatever is going on.

Mindfulness is fully accepting (not rejecting),and working with (not against), what is happening, or being felt, in the moment.

Mindfulness is not wasting time wishing things were different or fighting or denying what is.

Mindfulness is giving yourself a chance to see what’s happening from a fresh, unfettered perspective.

Mindfulness is living each moment with alert, unbiased curiosity, as if you’ve just been born.

Living this way puts you in a still, quiet space where you can calmly answer the great life question: What are you going to do next?

* * * * * *

Thanks for reading my weekly posts. I really appreciate your time and interest. Email me if you have any questions ( and you’re welcome to post comments at the end of the weekly articles.

I'm working on a free e-book about Mindfulness. I'll send you a link as soon as it's available.

I’m looking forward to sharing more life experiences, and scenes from Evergreen, with you throughout 2022.

With love, Marlane

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Thank you for this insightful post, Marlene. It’s one of the best accounts of mindfulness that I’ve read. Your phrase about the volcanic flow of emotion is an all-too vivid description of my own habit of automaticity! I shall return to this post many times.

Warmly, Colin

Marlane Ainsworth
Marlane Ainsworth
Jan 09, 2022
Replying to

Hi Colin

I like that original word of yours - "automaticity"! Life is so much more interesting when we step away from automatic thoughts and emotions. Eckhart Tolle describes these things as expressions of our "pain body". When we succumb to them we just generate more pain for ourselves and others.

Wishing you all the best in 2022!

Sincerely, Marlane

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