What is Mindfulness
Mindfulness is one of the oldest psychological techniques (over two thousand five hundred years).
The term “Mindfulness” is the English translation of the word “sati” which, in poles language, means something like “remembering”, in the sense of keeping well in mind”.
A bit like: “I have to remember to do the shopping” or “I have to keep in mind to tell John”.
But in the case of Mindfulness, it’s about keeping what in mind?
You have to keep in mind to bring attention to the present moment. To the here and now. To what we experience right now.
The focus of the mindfulness teaching is the attention to the present moment, but it is a special attention, which is classically defined as non-judgmental attention.
We are accustomed to applying judgments and labels to everything: this is good, this is bad, this is right, this is wrong, this is tasty, this is bad, this can be done, this is not.
Non-judgmental attention is, in fact, attention in which we deliberately renounce to apply labels and judgments to the object of our attention.
With the Mindfulness we “train” to apply a pure attention, direct, without filters, to what is, in the moment in which it is, exactly as it is perceived.
But why is non-judgmental attention so important at the present time? And why does this type of training have such beneficial effects on health?
Very often we are flooded and blocked by the past, or overwhelmed and frightened by catastrophic anticipation of the future.
Knowing how to return to the present moment is therefore a simple, direct and effective way to get out of the involvement of the past and the future.
The constant practice of Mindfulness teaches us to recognize our own mental experience as such, thoughts as thoughts, emotions as emotions, physical sensations as physical sensations.
Those who suffer from a psychological problem tend to confuse their inner experience with their reality. For example, if I think I’m incapable, I can convince myself that I’m “incapable”. If I think I’m bad, I can convince myself that I’m bad.
As you can see from the examples I exchange my thoughts with myself.
In reality, thoughts are thoughts and my reality is much greater than my thoughts.
Being anchored in the present moment allows us to open ourselves with curiosity and awareness to our experience and therefore also to the experience of the functioning of our mind and its way of interpreting, predicting, conceptualizing, judging; of its way of bonding to things or trying to escape and therefore even of its way of creating suffering.
This means that Mindfulness offers an extraordinary opportunity to deepen the knowledge of oneself and therefore to get to the heart of suffering and problems to solve them.
One of the most important goals of Mindfulness is not to follow the automatisms of the mind and to choose behaviors more appropriate to our values and goals.
In short, to choose what is really useful and important for us.
Mindfulness teaches us to regain possession of our experience and our choices.
At the basis of this path of re-appropriation there is the awareness of our present.
The present is what we perceive right now. NOW.
What we hear with our ears, what we perceive with our touch, smells, what we see.
And it is interesting to discover that attention to the present also allows us to perceive our thoughts as such:
What am I thinking about now?
There is a fundamental difference between thinking and realising that you are thinking.
When we think we perceive reality exactly as thought makes us perceive it. Thought is like a filter that gives meaning to our experience.
We often behave automatically by reacting to the meaning that is dictated by our thoughts and emotions.
Recognizing thoughts as such and emotions as such instead allows us to summarize the control of our actions, our choices and to broaden the field of self-awareness.
By Claudio Virgili, Psychologist-Psychotherapist
(A brief practical example followed)