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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

How does mindfulness fit into your life?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38956points) August 12th, 2010

Okay, it seems like an easy, simple question but be mindful (see what I did there, yeah…sorry, it’s late) of the fact that mindfulness doesn’t mean the same thing to different people…I know, I’ve asked…how mindful are you in your love life, your job, your ambitions? What does it mean for you to be mindful about your own character, your actions and what does it mean to be mindful of others? To what extent do you consider your sphere of influence?

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14 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

I was taught that mindfulness is a practice. The practice allows you to “be here, now” as the saying goes. That is: you are present and focused on what is happening now, instead of being all caught up in your mind’s thoughts about something else that may or may not happen and all the emotions associated with those thoughts.

Mindfulness is about being present and focused, whether it is with a lover, your work, your actions or with others. Mindfulness is also about taking actions that are helpful to you, and letting the thoughts and actions generated by unhelpful emotions slip on through. Many times we get all excited because some thought has led to a feeling or some feeling has led to a thought that is unhelpful or harmful to you.

Sometimes there are problems you have that there is nothing you can do about. You might get all caught up in feeling you should be doing something about it, and that makes you feel worse. It can make you feel like a failure. These are unhelpful thoughts and feelings. In a case like this, you would want to give up. You can’t fight it, whatever it is, so trying to fight it is unhelpful. Better to see if you can let it go, or even be friends with it.

Mindfulness helps you do these things. It uses the method of focusing on your breath. If you focus on your breath, your mind is using up a lot of its processing power. If you also focus on what is happening now, there is little room left for all those unhelpful emotions and thoughts.

This was shown to me somewhat dramatically in a workshop about mindfulness and the harmonica recently. We were given an exercise—breathe through the harmonica, steadily and slowly. It’s a lot like other breathing exercises, except you also make sound, which helps you focus on your breathing.

We were broken into pairs, and we coached our partner on how to enact a situation that makes us very tense and anxious and threatened. The partner then enacted the scene to the best of their ability while we did harmonica breathing. It was so much easier to keep your heartbeat steady while doing this. Our teacher explained that with breathing through the harmonica and listening to our partners, there is no room left to freak out. Our minds just don’t have that much processing power.

Mindfulness, I think, is about letting go of the extraneous stuff, and focusing on who we are with or what we are doing. In doing so, we can help ourselves to avoid anxiety and other feelings and obsessive thoughts that don’t help us. We focus on the here and now, and we can live our lives without so much frustration and anger. We can avoid creating more pain for ourselves than we already have.

I’ve been fighting depression for a while, it I have found mindfulness to be a useful technique. I’m new to it and it’s hard and I can’t always make it work for me. But I have been able to help myself with it. I like it a lot. It takes the pressure off me at the same time as it allows me to feel better. It’s weird. It’s like giving in and winning by giving in.

KhiaKarma's avatar

I was thinking about this today on my way home. I was feeling numb and frustrated about my job and just had a case of the blahs! I was mindlessly driving and I don’t even remember half of the trip. I was stuck in my head. Honestly, it was probably pretty dangerous. Slowing down and just focusing on sensations brings me out of my head. Noticing the smells, the feel of the air on my skin, the vibrant colors all around. It’s easier to say than do sometimes, like today- I wasn’t really able to snap out of my doom and gloom….but with practice, I think that mindfulness really helps me enjoy all that life has to offer as a human being.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta That is an interesting take on a concept that I relate to in a completely different way – I never considered mindfulness as a way of ‘being in the moment’ but rather as a way of grasping the multiplicity of..well, everything…capturing (and doing so quickly) all the angles of the situation or another person or our own actions…but of course there are overlaps with what you describe in that mindfulness, to me, is about awareness and depth but it’s also about responsibility, to others, that I have.

perspicacious's avatar

I pay attention to the things I think are important and leave the rest for the masses. That’s pretty much it.

Blackberry's avatar

I can’t answer this in-depth because I’m drunk and tired, but I’ll try to summarize a bit.

I’m very aware of the myriad situations people go through, I observe facial expressions, body language etc. I read a short passage of some random book at a bookstore once. It explained how many people will see one facet and automatically assume. The author gave an example of a typically annoying person: obnoxious, rude, has listening or learning problem etc. We see this person and just say ‘What an asshole/dumbass’, but what if later we find out they are simply a product of their environment? They had a hard life, their parents did not care etc.

Then…instead of frustration comes understanding. This is just an example I read, but it can apply to many facets of society. I have a hard time staying angry or even getting angry because I know everyone has a story. People aren’t just angry, sad, and hopeless for no reason.

Coloma's avatar

I call mindfulness presence.

To be fully present in the here and now, the moment, which is all there is.

Being stuck in thought, mind, dwelling on past or present which do not exist except in thought takes one away from the now, the only time that truly exists.

Not 5 minutes ago and nor 5 minutes from now, but NOW! lol

A great exercise I practiced a lot some years ago after listening to Eckhart Tolles ‘The Power of Now.’

He says to watch your thoughts arise, as a cat would watch a mouse hole.

When you are waiting, watching, present, no thoughts come. Which is the objective, to stop thinking and just be, revel in your aliveness not your mind.

Another good exercise is to focus on the body.

Breathing, the sensations of aliveness in your hands, feet, legs, fingers.

The body loves attention, and when focused on your bodies vibes, sensations you are outside of the random thinking zone again.

Of course many meditation practices focus on breath, the easiest way to get out of your head, just breathe and be present with breath.

wundayatta's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I knew, from the way you asked the question, that you weren’t thinking of mindfulness in the Buddhist way. However, from your description of how you think about it, I think that there is an important element of attention in both of our understandings. For you, if I understand you correctly, it’s attention to everything at once—a kind of instant grokking. For me, it is more about paying attention to what is in front of me, as opposed to what @Coloma calls “being stuck in thought, mind, dwelling on the past…”

Yours seems to be an expansive awareness, while this other concept focuses on, well, focus. On this moment. Keeping the chattering mind at bay.

I think there are commonalities between these ways of looking at it. I find yours to be a little ambitious, I think. It’s a lot of work merely to be present. But to be present and take in everything—the more power to you if you can do it. That’s too much for me.

Coloma's avatar


No one is able to be fully focused, present 100% of the time.

Thats why ‘they’ call it ‘practice.’ lol

Most peoples minds are stuck in past or future and not present in the here and now.

Ths is where the thought watching comes into play and the constant noticing of when one leaves the present moment, then bringing oneself back to the now again.

It’s really the same as what you are talking about, stilling the mind allows presence/focus/attention to be paid to whatever is in the moment, a person, being present with an animal, a flower, just looking wth full attention on what one is looking at.

It is not about perfecting any technique it is just about noticing and a constant return to the present moment.

wundayatta's avatar

@Coloma just to be clear, I thought that you and I were talking about the same thing, and I never meant to hint otherwise. I was looking for commonalities with @Simone_De_Beauvoir‘s way of thinking about mindfulness.

Coloma's avatar


Oh, maybe I wasn’t fully present!
Just woke up about 30 minutes ago….brain dead…no thoughts at all, just nothing, and certainly little comprehension til I get that 2nd cup of coffee circulating. lol

liminal's avatar

I find myself resting in what Wundayatta describes as the overlap between mindfulness as practice (as stated by Wundayatta and Coloma) and mindfulness as an awareness of self and other (as I hear Simone describing).

In particular, I often practice a meditation that invites me to simply be attune to the moment. The feel of my body against the rug, the feel of the rug against my body, the running of my thoughts and emotions, the sounds, and the smells surrounding me, yet I don’t hold-on to anything. Sometimes this is a formal meditation time, often it is moments such as lying with my children while they sleep, working on a project with my beloved, or going for a walk. I become a diver who has tethered herself to the bottom of the river and is watching everything float on by, yet completely immersed in the experience.

Sometime the things that float by my awareness are inconsequential, sometimes they are painful realties of my own or this world. I grasp at none of it and simply let it “be”. This practice instructs the rest of my life in the choices I make. It aliveness me to others and nature. It helps me see that I can choose to engage or not engage. It helps me discern when to observe or when to be active. There is an amazing power that comes from engaging with life because one chooses to do so. It is far fiercer than moving because one feels compelled by ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’. Here I want to note that I see my practice of such mindfulness as a gift that requires space in order to be. I have shelter and I am not living with hunger, poverty, and danger. I have also spent many years wrestling with my inner demons and finding peace with violation. It is easier to be in touch with the present moment when one is not fearing memories that seem real, danger, or hunger. Yet, even in the midst of such things mindful centering can happen.

Mindfulness as a practice awakens me from the dreams of my ego and invites me into awareness of others and the world. Things are louder and brighter, and so are the people of this world. Everything strikes me deeply: injustice, beauty, poverty, abundance, suffering… It can feel overwhelming at times. The interconnectedness of all things is very alive to me. I am very attuned to the ‘butterfly effect’ (for example, what happens with our plastic waste, you know, bottle caps and such). I am deeply impacted by concepts like this: Miniature Earth and I want everybody else to be also. I could easily get caught up in distress instead of action. Something about mindfulness in practice and in awareness helps me zero in where to best put my energy.

Coloma's avatar


Very good!

Thanks for that! ;-)

mammal's avatar

mindfulness; awareness, openness, receptiveness lead to a fuller richer experience, i see that term as a Buddhist or spiritual concept.

CMaz's avatar

I’m mindful of everything.

And, I have to tell ya…. My mind is full.

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