Mindfulness refers to the natural capacity we all have for being present.
When we’re present, we’re able to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell the details of our current experience. We can also notice that we’re thinking or experiencing emotional reactions.
In contrast, when people report not being present, they usually mean their mind is somewhere else. They might be remembering past experiences, imagining future events, or trying to figure something out in their minds.
When we’re present, we can observe our moment-by-moment experiences with less internal friction.
Internal friction appears when we try to make pleasant moments even better or unpleasant moments less uncomfortable. There are endless strategies we’ve all developed for thinking and acting in ways to try to turn what’s currently happening into what we wish were happening instead.
For example, worrying can feel like exerting control, but it can also generate a slew of worst-case scenarios. Making vacation plans can make you feel less satisfied with the vacation you’re currently taking. A pint of ice cream can take the edge off an unpleasant emotion, but you tend to regret consistently consuming beyond your reasonable caloric budget.
With mindfulness practice, you can expand the range of circumstances in which you’re able to stay focused and composed in the present. It erodes your tendency to undermine pleasant moments and escalate unpleasant ones.
Mindfulness provides a variety of ways to exercise our attention using your ordinary sensory experiences to gradually transform how you relate to your life as it unfolds.