What is Mindfulness, Anyway?

What is Mindfulness, Anyway?
Photo by Lesly Juarez / Unsplash

Most people have heard the word mindfulness. These days it's offered as part of many corporate wellness programs. I know coaches and trainers who offer it to medical students, college students, and leaders. My expertise happens to be mindfulness in business. I love helping tech teams succeed.

So, what is this mindfulness thing, anyway?

I came across this definition while researching for this post, (I simply typed the word mindfulness into my Google search engine):

Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

Psychology Today says Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention to the present. This state is described as observing one’s thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad.

And IOSM, says Mindfulness is a 2,500-year old mental practice that quiets, calms and focuses the mind, and so strengthens our awareness and attention control. It is both a process of neural training, and a state of mind that reduces signals of pain, fear, and anxiety from the primitive brain, while strengthening mental clarity and executive capabilities in the neocortex...

And this is just scratching a teeny tiny bit of the surface. I bring this to mind because for someone new to all this mindfulness talk, it can be hard to choose the right program or practice technique.

What is the right approach? I've been a coach for almost a decade now and I still get asked the question, "Is this the right way?"

My response is: there is no right way to sharpen our skills or solve a problem. But I do know that it's helpful to have a good level of clarity about what you'd like to achieve. Without that, one can get lost in what's interesting but not necessarily effective.  

I've an open mind, so I've tried a lot of different things. Sometimes from a high level of clarity and sometimes from lower levels. I've done a lot to try to solve my problems, from psychological tools and tests to body-focused techniques. I'm almost embarrassed about how much I know about self development.

But from all my past attempts, I have to say the biggest changes in my life have come from consistently focusing on training my attention skills. It's why I've chosen to teach and use the Unified Mindfulness (UM) set of techniques as a basis for my coaching work, where

My Increased Happiness & Productivity = Attention Skill Training x Time.

But, like I said, there is no right way out there, so no matter what you choose, I'm confident that with interest and application, you'll probably find some relief. If you're interested but unsure about mindfulness, I've put some recommendations together to help you.

First, as I mentioned before, start with the clearest idea for what you want to achieve. Having a clear idea helps your mind sort for key words or experiences that resonate with what you're after.

Second, after you've found a few options, spend a few moments with them. What speaks to you? What resonates with you most? The more engaging it is, the more likely you are to stick with it when times get a little tough because, hey, growth and change aren't always easy.

And lastly, have a way to measure your growth so you know when you've achieved what you set out to do, (or be).

Oh and remember to build in some down time after coaching sessions end or you've gleaned a huge insight. You'll need some time to integrate and use what you've learned in daily life. I'd avoid hopping from one thing straight into another. This can create confusion and exhaustion.

Bottom line is go for what you want with enthusiasm, just be kind to yourself. Take a break so you can integrate and celebrate all those significant shifts.

To help you get some clarity, (if you need it), I've put a few questions from my intake form below.

Before answering the questions below, I recommend taking a few moments to bring to mind the specific situation you'd like to resolve or enhance, (clarity).

After you've placed your attention on that situation, connect inward into your inner talk space, (Hear In) and internal mental screen (See In) before you answer the questions below. This helps bring even more clarity before you begin.

Q1: What do you want? (Answer as broadly as needed, this can shift and change as you gain more clarity.)

Q2: How will you know when you have it? (Notice what you might feel or see or hear when you've achieved your goal)

Q3: What resources or interests do you currently have to help you succeed? (Sometimes we miss what's already available to help us)

Q4: Are you most interested in finding relief, experiencing more fulfillment, getting insight, creating more connection, or wanting to learn new skills?

If you're new to mindfulness and have some general questions or would like more information about attention skill training using Unified Mindfulness (UM), reach out, I'm happy to help.

My UM Happiness Goal Setting session is a great place to see if the Unified Mindfulness system speaks to you. And if not, we can tweak what you're already using.