Mindfulness can be described in many ways.
It is a practice of purposefully paying attention to the present moment and bringing a non-judgemental, compassionate awareness to the nature of things.
It is a way of being, a way of relating to our inner and outer experiences, and a coming to our senses, literally and figuratively.
At the same time, it is nothing at all, nothing but a rediscovery or remembering of our natural, inborn capacity to be fully awake in our lives, in contact with things in a direct way without the filters of concepts, past experiences, our likes, and dislikes.
This way of seeing is immediately available to all of us at any moment.
Try it now if you like.
After reading this paragraph, let your eyes move away from the page and let your gaze land on something nearby.
Offer it bare attention, seeing it as if for the first time, leaving labels and associations aside.
Softly notice its shape, colour, texture, and the space it occupies.
Practising further, you might also notice thoughts crossing your mind, your attention wandering to something else, or feelings arising in response to your sensory contact with the object.
You can use the same object or a different one each time.
What you just engaged in was a mindfulness practice.
You picked an object of attention to help anchor your awareness in a present moment experience and you observed what happened in your mind, body, and heart.
Most likely, much of what you observed reflected some of the elements of your everyday experience, such as distraction, desire, a vision, restlessness, doubt, or boredom.
Yet they may also have been moments of just seeing.
This is what is meant by mindfulness practice.
It is called a practice because when we do it in a consistent fashion, we get multiple opportunities to practice the stuff of life.
Over time we can shift our relationship to this stuff and learn in a safe, gradual, self-paced way how to respond instead of reacting to the habits and frequent flyers of the mind.
Choose to develop a greater sense of efficacy and balance in our lives.
In this way, we gradually restore a healthy, friendly relationship with ourselves, without feeling alienated and isolated from others, and can reconnect to our own deep intuitive wisdom and creativity.
This practice is an inner journey, perhaps the most important journey of our lives, a thought elegantly captured by the American monk and writer Thomas Merton.
Of what use is it that we can travel to the moon if we can’t cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?
This website can serve as a thoughtful guide and introduction to the journey of cultivating greater mindful awareness in your life.
In clear language, it describes the essence and practice of mindfulness and suggests action plans for building it into your life. But like any journey, it is important that you follow your own ideas as well and pay particular attention to what feels helpful and what does not.
It is also important to attend to the way that the judging nature of the mind can subtly turn your mindfulness practice into just one more self-improvement project.
Mindfulness offers much more; it is a way of simply coming to know yourself and things just as they are, moment by moment, and opening up to the wisdom that naturally arises when one cultivates a compassionate curiosity towards the human experience.
One final description of mindfulness may be useful here.
Above all, it is a part of the heart; a practice of loving awareness that offers to hold any and all experience in a compassionate, spacious embrace.
So let the heart guide you through the practices and reflections offered on this website and in each of your moments.
Beginning here now.