What is Mindfulness

Mindfulness has many definitions, but what does it really mean?

Street art graffiti in spray paint on a red brick wall of a woman with closed eyes, African-American features, and afro hairstyle shaped like flower petals in a rainbow color. This shows zen mindfulness.
Photo by Artturi Siivonen on Unsplash

Table of Contents


Introduction

Have you ever felt like you vaguely understand something, but then once you dig a bit deeper, you realize you don’t have a clue what it means?

That’s how I feel about mindfulness.

It’s become ubiquitous in our modern society, yet its meaning often feels akin to rainbows, unicorns, and all the feel goods.

Definition of Mindfulness

Listen, I like rainbows and unicorns as much as the next person, but I also have a deep need to understand what a word means especially this word. This need drove me on a mini quest to uncover the real definition of mindfulness. Here’s what I found on my journey.

Mindfulness – (n) the quality of state of being consciously aware or something. (Oxford Dictionary).

Etymonline adds, “1520s, “attention, heedfulness; intention, purpose,” from mindful + -ness. As “psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences in the present moment,” as developed through meditation, etc., it was in use by 1995; the word was used since late 19c. in translations of Buddhist texts (for sati).”

Fantasticclear as mud. Let’s try again.

Mindfulness: be present in the moment to moment.

That’s better.

Mindfulness means to be aware of yourself (meaning awareness of all of your senses at the moment) aware of how you’re feeling (your emotions), your thoughts, and your surroundings. That’s what mindfulness is. You’re fully aware of yourself and the environment around you. Something or someone may have caused you fear, anger, or anxiety, for example, and you’re allowing yourself to recognize how those emotions are impacting you at the moment. You can feel and acknowledge these feelings and how your body feels, but you don’t have to overreact or become overwhelmed by them, which is the point.

a painting on canvas in downwards strokes of a rainbow which starts with the color yellow, then goes to orange, red, green, dark teal, royal purple, blue, and light blue. This rainbow is colorful and happy
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Mindfulness means to be aware of yourself (awareness of all of your senses) aware of how you’re physically feeling, your emotions, your thoughts, and your surroundings in the present moment.

Ashley in mind

That seems familiar, right? That’s because it is. This is something most of us already know about and most likely have done it on occasion, but didn’t necessarily consciously call it “mindfulness.” But being aware of the name and meaning doesn’t mean you’ll know how to, or remember to, use it when you need it the most.

From what I’ve gathered thus far from my readings is that mindfulness is something we all have it’s innate but we need to practice the technique to hone and cultivate it. Many people do it in different ways (e.g. sports, yoga, meditation, focus on breath, etc.), so there is no one way to do it. However, it does seem as if meditation is the overwhelmingly suggested path to take. Our world is filled with a multitude of stressors, which cause stress, worry, and anxiety. The short video from Happify ( an refreshingly helpful and unique app that I’ll speak about in a different post) below explains this a bit more. If you’d like a few tangible steps to overcome worry, check out my blog post which details how to implement small, easy lifestyle adjustments here.

Why Mindfulness is a superpower (via Youtube)

Why Mindfulness Is Important

Many websites and mindfulness practitioners believe that, if done correctly and consistently, it has the power to reduce stress, sadness, and depression, as well as increase focus and your lifespan. It doesn’t erase these things from our lives, but it does give us options on how to deal with them in the present moment when they arise. That’s a lot of positive change for something seemingly so simple. Now, I said “simple,” not easy. The brain is the most complex thing in the known universe and scientists are still learning new things about it. Scientist also don’t fully understand how the mind works. So, for you or anyone else to believe that you can conquer it and bring in its reigns, so to speak, would be asinine.

It would also not be the goal of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a isn’t about strong-arming your mind. It’s not about controlling it. It’s about being aware of what you’re thinking, acknowledging that you’re having this thought instead of, say, focusing on your breathing during a meditative practice, passing no judgement on yourself, and returning to your meditative practice. This, in my opinion, would lower your stress and anxiety levels because you’re freeing yourself from having to focus and perhaps find a solution to whatever your thought. You’re not held captive by your mind. I think of like riding in car and looking out the window. You see plenty of things pass before your eyes as you gaze aimlessly out the car window, but they’re just passing by. Nothing more. That’s how thoughts work during mindfulness practice, in my opinion. It’s a skill you have to use and polish. You’re aware of the thought and that you’re thinking it. There’s no need to do more than that. You’re aware of where you had this thought that you were thinking, and how it made you feel both mentally and physically.


Is all of its hype warranted? I’m not sure. There are more positive articles and journals written about it and how to practice it. You’ll have to do a bit of sleuthing to find the negative or contrary position. In fact, apparently there is still much to be learned about it. Read a bit about that here. Similarly, what are the adverse effects of mindfulness, if any? Again, I’ve yet to read anything about that, but I welcome the opportunity to learn some.

Final Thoughts and Should Christians Meditate

A colorful, happy, inflated rainbow unicorn floating in the ocean, sea, or river with beautiful sparkling cerulean blue water during the daytime on a bright, sunny day with fluffy white clouds in the sky.
Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

I still need to do more research on the benefits of meditation as well as it’s importance. (And, on a side note, I’ll write a separate blog post about meditation as I don’t want to detract from the focus of this post. ) As a follower of Christ, I want to mindful that I am following Him in the way He prescribed. I’ve tried some mindfulness practices such as yoga (which I DON’T like), breathing (which I DO like), sports/exercise (running, ballet, pilates), and meditation. Meditation was the one I shied away from at first because I wasn’t sure if the way it’s taught in practiced in this country, the USA, was even biblical. I soon realized that even King David (yes, the one who killed Goliath) practiced a form of God centered meditation. I can’t tell you what to do, dear brother and sister, but I can tell you that I do believe meditation is okay for Christians to practice, just choose how you personally would like to spend that time with God. That’s the point, though, mindfulness is about you. You can be mindful of the fact that the Holy Spirit is alive during your church service. It’s up to you how to do it. There’s freedom in choice. Choose to do it, or choose to not. Choose to do it a certain way, or choose to do it another way. Want two simple, easy ways to incorporate mindfulness? Click here for two ways that will help you ground yourself when you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious.

Mindfulness seems to have many positive benefits on our well-being. If done, and practiced consistently, it appears to help lead practitioners towards greater happiness in life. But, to be honest, when I first came across the term mindfulness, I wrote it off as some new age, hippy-dippy concept potentially appropriated from a “non-western” culture. But I don’t think it’s that. Not entirely, at least. I think it’s something more, but I’ll have to research, read, and practice it more to be sure. I’ll get back to you on that.

How have you incorporated mindfulness into your life?

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