Marriage and Family Therapist
Editor & Co-owner,
Journal of Holistic Psychology
oakland therapist & couples counselor
Mindfulness is being aware of and present with what is happening in this moment, with acceptance of whatever that is. (You can read articles about mindfulness in the Resources section).
Mindfulness can be a useful tool for deeper therapeutic exploration, increasing your self-understanding, and adding ease to daily living. I'm experienced in teaching mindfulness, leading meditation, and the personal practice of mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
As you read these words, what is passing through your mind? Do you feel your body making contact with the chair in which you sit? To where is your attention going? Is it fully here, on this page, or is it also on your hunger, the air’s temperature, or your to-do list?
Mindfulness is about being aware of your mind in this moment, with a gentle acceptance of wherever that is.
Mindfulness is awareness of present experience, with acceptance. Thus mindfulness is composed of three elements: awareness, presence—contact with this moment, and acceptance. If we are aware of, present with, and accept this moment, then we are being mindful.
Practicing mindfulness meditation
Buddhist psychology differentiates between two methods of meditation: concentration (samatha) and mindfulness or insight (vipassana) meditation. Concentration meditation is the focusing of attention on an object (e.g., mantra, candle flame, visualization). Mindfulness meditation is the opening of attention, noticing whatever is arising internally and externally—merely the intention to hold both moment by moment. In mindfulness meditation, we gain clarity around the subtleties of our thought patterns, emotions, and approach to daily living.
In contrast to meditation, mindfulness can also be a moment-to-moment practice—awaking, walking, showering, working, eating, and speaking. Throughout the day, I check in with my interiority, “What is happening inside me right now?” and, “How can I remain mindful amidst my busyness?”.
Mindfulness as an antidote
Mindfulness can be an antidote to avoidance, worry, regret, and avoidance. This doesn't mean that you will cut these out of your experience and never feel them again (this is nonacceptance and avoidance). It means you can learn to go towards your experience and work with it instead of resisting and avoiding. Instead you can tolerate, confront, and accept what is uncomfortable, which yields insight, clarity, and often relief.
If we are caught up in a feeling or distracted by thoughts in this moment, we are not fully aware of or present in this moment—mindlessness. We are also being mindless if we are aware of this moment, but unwilling to be present in it—for some reason this moment seems undesirable or unacceptable.
In our busyness we often miss moments in which we could check in with ourselves throughout the day. When things get rough in our lives, distraction is a frequent way of coping.