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The Practice of Living Mindfully

Mindfulness began as a Buddhist, Eastern practice.  It is one of the seven factors of enlightenment known as “right mind or watchful mind.” One practices mindfulness by becoming awake to moment-by-moment awareness of present conditions and events. It is a practice of focus, observation, and acceptance.

I learned to practice mindfulness on my emotional states. I had been an emotional stuffer, not allowed to be angry, sad, disappointed, and trained to be happy regardless of situations. Any feeling unlike happiness had to be stuffed. By the time I was in my late 20s I was filled with rage and deeply depressed. I happened upon Jack Kornfield’s book A Path with Heart. In this book, I learned the benefit of interviewing my emotional states. I learned to sit in meditation with the emotion currently within me and observe it. My intention wasn’t to change it, but to simply observe it. One emotion at a time I learned how they operated within my body. I taught myself to be mindful of my emotional states. This practice showed me I was the master of my emotions; they were not the masters of me. This shift transformed me.

Mindfulness is being awake to wherever our attention lies. It can be mindful eating. This means awareness around what is being eaten, how often one eats, and any underlying motivation to eating. One can engage in mindful communication. This means being awake to the words used in a conversation, the energy that underlies the words, and the body language to accompany it. Mindful meditation is typically breathing meditation where the breath is watched.

Mindfulness, then, is a practice of being open to the present moment without judgment. It is a regular practice and life is the backdrop for this practice.