Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are.
Pay attention to what? you might ask. To anything, but especially to those aspects of life that we most take for granted or ignore. For instance, we might start paying attention to the basic components of experience, like how we feel, what is on our minds, and how we perceive or know anything at all. Mindfulness means paying attention to things as they actually are in any given moment, however they are, rather than as we want them to be. Why does paying attention in this way help? Because it is the exact antithesis to the type of ruminative thinking that makes low moods persist and return.
First, mindfulness is intentional. When we are cultivating mindfulness, we can be more aware of present reality and the choices available to us. We can act with awareness. By contrast, rumination is often an automatic reaction to whatever triggers us. It is tantamount to unawareness, being lost in thought.
Second, mindfulness is experiential, and it focuses directly on present-moment experience. By contrast, when we ruminate, or minds are preoccupied with thoughts and abstractions that are far away from direct sensory experience. Rumination propels our thoughts into the past or into an imagined future.
Third, mindfulness is non-judgmental. Its virtue is that it allows us to see things as they actually are in the present moment and to allow them to be as they actually are. By contrast, judging and evaluating are integral to rumination and the entire doing mode. Judgments of any sort (good or bad, right or wrong) imply that we or the things around us have to measure up in some way to an internal or external standard. The habit of judging ourselves severely disguises itself as an attempt to help us live better lives and to be better people, but in actuality the habit of judging people winds up as functioning as an irrational tyrant that can never be satisfied…
The practice of mindfulness teaches us to shift into being mode so that we can be more at peace with our emotions. Our emotions are not the enemy, after all, but messages that reconnect us in the most basic and intimate ways with the adventure and experience of being alive.’
– Jon Kobat-Zin et al, The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness.
Peace and Blessings