I’ve been slowly reorganizing my desk over the past week and came across a handful of printouts and worksheets about Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT). I was first introduced to MBCT about seven years ago and since then have become very interested in the topics of mindfulness and awareness. I’ve studied the ever-expanding array of available literature, tried to teach myself the graceful art of tai chi, and began an on-again/off-again relationship with meditation. (I’m terrible at it, by the way. Staying still with nothing to focus on but my breath is like an open invitation for my thoughts to shift into overdrive.)
I’ve mentioned mindfulness in other posts with regards to writing (See: And Then Syndrome), but really there isn’t an aspect of life that wouldn’t be improved by learning to be present in the here and now. Regardless of my knowledge of this fact—and because I’m still a WIP in this area—this sense of awareness tends to elude me and over the years, rather than accumulating evidence of what mindfulness is, I’ve amassed a whole lot of examples of what mindfulness isn’t.
For instance, mindfulness is not:
- Ruminating or dwelling on the past
- Obsessing about, fretting over, or fearing the future
- Having a conversation (in person or on the phone) while doing absolutely anything else
- Shallow breathing
- Thinking about something other than what I’m doing
- Driving on autopilot
It might seem negative or counterintuitive to tune into those actions that are presence-opposed, but sometimes it’s easier to define something by what it isn’t rather than by what it is. And this awareness, especially when it comes to my own instinctive behavior, is a necessary first step to promote growth and change.
What does mindfulness or presence look like to you? Or, if you’re like me and have a tendency to lean toward anti-mindfulness behavior, what doesn’t it look like?