What is mindfulness? And why can’t you always be ‘here and now’? This article answers these questions for you. It goes into the natural connection between mindfulness and inner growth.
This article is written by Wendy van Mieghem, psychologist, sociologist and teacher. After running a private psychotherapy practice for years, I now focus on writing, teaching and developing new products that offer you support and inspiration for conscious living.
What is mindfulness?
In the field of personal and spiritual development, mindfulness is one of several states of awareness that naturally come and go.
Mindfulness finds its origins in Buddhism. It is an attentive state of awareness that is strongly connected with the present moment and reality as it is. We all have experienced ‘mindful’ moments before, in which we’ve felt deeply at peace with ourselves and our surroundings; for example when we are in nature.
Pure ‘mindful’ moments bring along a clear comprehension of reality as it is, in many different ways and at many different levels.
Mindfulness exercises often invite you to focus on your senses, for this helps you to become more aware of the present moment. Your senses are closely related to your physical body, which is centered in time and place in the present moment.
Your attention and experiences are often not as closely related to the present moment as your physical body is; your perception of reality is often distorted. It is part of your nature of being. A simple exercise as the ‘body scan‘ can help you to become more aware of the lapses and holes that are in your perception of your own physical body.
“It is almost impossible to be in the present moment with your attention all the time.”
Don’t worry, it is perfectly normal to discover that it is harder than you thought to focus your attention 😀 ! Let me explain why.
Why you move in and out of now
Having ‘mindful’ moments does not mean you (have to) live mindful all the time. In fact, you will soon experience that that is almost impossible to do. When you focus on your senses (as many mindfulness exercises invite you to do), you move closer to the here and now. The experience of ‘experiencing here and now’ may last for a shorter or longer amount of time. After a while, you’ll notice that you have been distracted. Unconsciously your attention moved elsewhere, away from the present moment.
Whenever your attention strays away, your attention moves to other aspects of your being that require your attention the most. This happens automatically; it is beyond your control. Your attention is drawn to aspects of yourself beyond your consciousness. This can be earlier life experiences, with suppressed emotions, feelings or thoughts lying around them. Your system automatically tries to integrate these experiences into the present moment, piece by piece.
It is also possible that your attention is drawn away because you worry or fret about the future. With the fear that lies underneath your worrying, you (un)consciously ‘push’ yourself out of the present moment. You probably experience a difficulty to let go of your worries or to relie on the carrying capacity of your body and mind.
Mindfulness and inner growth
In a certain way, the present moment does encapture your past, present and future. It is the power of now. The present moment is your anchor and your attention, experiences and life lessons fly around it; looking for a place to land.
To find peace in everything that is currently present, can be a hell of a job. At the same time, your longing to find inner peace is one of the deepest longings you carry with you. You probably struggle from time to time with your capacity to accept yourself and life as it is; just like we all do. Every time you suppress or deny some of your instincts, emotions or feelings, you lose contact with the present moment a little more. You don’t do it on purpose; it just happens. To learn to deal with your instincts, emotions and feelings as they come and go naturally, is a challenge.
“Inner growth is a process in which you get to know, express and trust all aspects of your humanity by experience, at a continuously deepening level.”
Every person who takes the effort to tune in to their inner being and to listen to what she or he needs, is a brave creature. For the place where you meet your deepest qualities and longings, is also the space where you meet your deepest fears.
The process of finding a way and balance through this is what I call inner growth: to get to know, express and trust all aspects of your humanity by experience at a continuously deepening level.
Mindfulness exercises help you to become more aware of the present moment. It breathes how everything, pleasant and unpleasant, is connected in a natural way. It helps you to find peace. Inner growth helps you to integrate the emotions, feelings, thoughts and experiences that come forth in the present moment. The more at ease you are when you deal with your own humanity, the less reason there is to flight. This way the moments that you experience inner peace can be lengthened.
This is how mindfulness and inner growth are naturally connected.