Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment, or more simply, to be here now, be someplace else later.
When we focus on this moment, right here, right now, with the breath, meditation, movement, body scan, or journaling, we get a beautiful side effect: The feeling of calm, peace, and a hope that we really are okay in this moment, right here, right now. That practice, for 5 or 15 or 30 minutes is what equips us to deal with an ailing parent, a sick child, a difficult patient, heavy traffic, weather, fatigue, financial issues and all the other challenges we face on a daily basis in this life.
To be here now, for what Buddhists call the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows, to be fully present to these moments and move through them to the other side is what mindfulness helps us to experience. Our lives are made up of moments, and if we are not awake and aware for them, we miss them. The full spectrum of the richness, the contrast, the highs and lows— and everything in between. This is the richness of life and you get to decide if you want to be awake and aware for it, or asleep with your to-do lists, your busyness, your endless distractions and diversions?
The practice of mindfulness is so powerful because it changes your brain, your perspective, and your behavior.
There are >1000 scientific studies that have proven mindfulness creates new neural pathways in your brain that increases your emotional intelligence, (the awareness and regulation of your emotions) your ability to focus and pay attention, remember and process information, your compassion, for yourself and others, which all lead to a higher level of engagement and functioning.
Mindfulness also improves your overall well-being by decreasing your stress levels. Stress is increased when we have anxiety by agonizing about the future or depressed when we ruminate about the past and both lead to feelings of helplessness and being out of out of control, which leads to loss of perspective and more stress. The practice of mindfulness breaks that cycle of spinning in our minds by focusing on one thing, one moment at a time.
One of the most important things mindfulness gives us is a pause, a space to respond instead of react in the present moment. The present moment is the only place we get to think, create, listen, decide, act and live. This pause is very valuable in your everyday life when you get cut-off in traffic, have a fight with your spouse, or experience a long line at the grocery store.
Mindfulness helps reduce stress which supports you to to engage in every area of your life. But the practices of mindfulness also teach us the importance of giving attention to our intention, allowing us to live with deeper connection and serve at higher levels.
Just like you go to the gym to exercise your heart muscle or bicep muscle to get in shape, you also have to exercise your mindfulness muscle to get more mindful. We do this with various mindfulness practices.
These practices not only help you cultivate mindfulness while you are practicing, but because you are creating new neural pathways, you also cultivate mindfulness in different areas of your life even when you are not practicing.
Your Mindful Year consists of 12 different intentions, one for each month. These intentions are based on the qualities of mindfulness and are cultivated with the mindfulness practices, the core practices and the practices specific to each intention. By practicing these different qualities, you cultivate more mindfulness.
You will focus your intention each month on one or more of the following areas of you life: