The Many Facets of Mindfulness Practice

There is a definition of mindfulness that goes beyond what we might gather from how it is frequently described. This is along the lines of it being the cultivation of awareness - of perceptions and the judging, analyzing mind - so that one can make more informed choices in life. This is a wonderful definition but one I like even better is something I first heard from teacher Christina Feldman. It describes mindfulness as a relational practice: "Mindfulness is the willingness and capacity to be with all experiences with kindness, curiosity and discernment."

This take on mindfulness practice reflects how it is both active and voluntary. It highlights that it involves being curious about our experiences -- so we can investigate and explore them in ways that are informed by more than our initial impulses. "Kindness" reflects that mindfulness is a protective kind of awareness in that it serves our well-being. Paying attention with mindfulness is more than bearing up to difficult circumstances. It involves befriending ourselves and our minds in the process of remembering, observing, or choosing, moment to moment. Whether on the level of thoughts, feelings or relating to our physical experiences. Ultimately, it helps us enter into a new relationship with the present moment, one where, over and over, we welcome ourselves to be present.

"Mindfulness is the willingness and capacity to be with all experiences with kindness, curiosity and discernment." Christina Feldman

The implications for being in relationship to the present moment are as dynamic as they are challenging. All forms of relationship involve a "just right" kind of effort, and this is what takes practice. "Turning toward, rather than away", from our experiences, a concept I have heard described by many teachers, most recently Phillip Moffitt, is ultimately where we can be most enlivened by our experiences, on all levels. This is a practice worth revisiting again and again, so it can become a way of life. This relationship - with ourselves - is worth cultivating.

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