The first time I’ve really asked myself about what mindfulness might be was when reading an article in a human sciences magazine. I then understood that mindfulness was about paying more attention to every little detail of our daily lives. It took me a long time to connect this idea of mindfulness with the idea of practicing mindfulness.
What’s wrong about mindfulness ?
Practicing mindfulness was something I imagined completely opposite to my nature, my true self and m way of life. I imagined the practice of mindfulness as being a way to detach completely from the world, not in the wise manner of a Buddhist monk but rather as a mean to rebel and reject a world. By pushing away the reality of life, mindfulness practice seemed to be a way to becoming naive lonely idiots, some sort of hermits with no personality.
There was another preconception I held deeply in me : I couldn’t help but relating mindfulness practice and meditation to some sort of spiritual practice. As I wasn’t religious at all, I associated this idea of mindfulness with the idea of a kind of religion with very specific rules including special postures and long hours of sitting doing nothing and being empty inside.
Overcoming these preconceptions was a patient pathway. It started with this article written by philosophers, which opened my mind to the idea that mindfulness was an attitude already underlined in many philosophers theories, from Senecus to Nietzsche. My practice of yoga and search for ways to improve my focus made me also realise that mindfulness practice was not more than a mental training.
Experience is key
Here is a little exercice to try : sit comfortably, either on a chair with a straight back, or cross-legged. Close your eyes, breathe through your nose and gently follow your breath. Explore how the body moves, what the temperature of the air is in your nostrils, how each inhale follows an exhale. Then take the time to count mentally from 0 to 10. There is no rush. Try to count and observe if your thoughts drift away from the count. Each time you notice that you were thinking about something else (“what’s for dinner ?”, “oh, I don’t want to go to that meeting today”, etc.), smile internally and start the count again.
I can now state without hesitation that cultivating the present moment has been the greatest tool to reduce my anxiety levels, to tap into my perceptions, emotions, thoughts and mental formations and enjoy them rather than undergoing them as a helpless spectator not being able to influence them.