Mindfulness is a concept born in the Buddhist tradition but useful to anyone, regardless of belief or adherence to a particular tradition.
It has become secularized to the point that it can be considered a psychological concept, and is particularly useful to recovering addicts and alcoholics.
The central idea in mindfulness is to maintain a watchful attitude toward one’s own body, mind, and emotions. This corresponds to techniques taught in treatment and in 12-step recovery.
Here are some key points to practicing mindfulness:
- What is my body telling me at any given moment? Awareness of my body is important—it’s probably trying to tell me something. Am I hungry, tired, overly energetic, or experiencing any other condition that I should notice?
- What emotion is it I am currently experiencing? (Addicts and alcoholics tend to have a history of treating uncomfortable emotions with substances. Identifying, fully feeling, and processing these emotions is new; it begins with awareness.)
- What is my mind doing? (It is possible to develop an awareness of what the mind is doing: this requires a “mind behind the mind,” or a “watcher.” The “watcher” can monitor the mind’s wanderings, tricks, evasions, and self-justifications, and it can say “I know what this is” and disempower destructive lines of thinking.)
Notice that “awareness” is listed in each of these points.
Mindfulness is perhaps synonymous with awareness, or at least it means to strive for a deliberate sense of awareness throughout the day. Most people’s habits of mind tend toward a complacent autopilot mode. Mindfulness is an attempt to live more deliberately and to experience life more fully.
Consider that the logical opposite of mindfulness would be mindlessness and the attractiveness of mindfulness should be immediately apparent.