Mindfulness: The Definition (Part 1 of 6)


“Living in the moment.”
“Living with whatever comes your way, without trying to change it.”
“Accepting everything.”
“Being happy / content / joyful all the time.”

These are some of the phrases that I’ve heard people mention when they talk about mindfulness.

While all of them have something to do with mindfulness, none of them are quite accurate. And that’s a problem.

These misconceptions are a big part of the reason why mindfulness gets such a bad rap in the press at times.

They’re also why people feel like they’re failing at it.

The thing is, you can’t fail at mindfulness. You can forget to be mindful, but that moment when you realize you’ve forgotten is actually a magic moment, a moment when you have an opportunity to be really different, as the noted meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg would say.

Think about the last time you were sitting in the dark and you suddenly realized you forgot to turn on the light. Did you stay in the dark, berating yourself for failing to turn on the light? Of course not. You probably just got up, flipped the switch, and got back to whatever it was you were doing, but you were able to do it a lot more easily and effectively with the light on.

That’s how it can be with mindfulness. But before we can remember to be mindful, we have to have a clear understanding of just what it is, and what it isn’t.

I’ve written about this before, but now I’m going to start a new series of posts in which I will take a deeper look at each aspect of this definition of mindfulness:

“Mindfulness is about setting an intention to pay attention in the present moment, with kindness and curiosity, so we can then choose our next action or behavior.”

(I’ve adapted this definition from Jon Kabat-Zinn, the pioneering mindfulness teacher and author of Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, and Dr. Amy Saltzman, author of A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions.)

In the next few posts, we’ll explore the ideas of intention, paying attention, present moment, kindness and curiosity, and choosing our next behaviors and how they can help us be more effective, empathic parents. From there, we’ll dive into some practices that can help you integrate mindfulness into your daily life.

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Shared by: Carla Naumburg, Ph.D, Contributing Blogger

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