People tend to ask me what Mindfulness is and how it is different from other contemplative practices. I usually respond by presenting the Triangle of Mindfulness, which is simple and yet profound. The Triangle defines Mindfulness using 3 A's.
The first A stands for Awareness. Awareness is specifically the practice and trait of noticing our inner experiences non-judgementally during mindfulness practices as well as during our daily affairs. It is the ability to be aware of one’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, intentions, motivations and actions.
The second A stands for Attention. It is the ‘paying attention’ and focusing on the present moment that is observed during all mindfulness practices, especially the formal ones. But it is quite different from expecting the mind to be on a single object wilfully or forcefully. Paying attention primarily revolves around ‘noticing’ with awareness and non-judgement. Paying attention to our breath without changing the way we breathe is one of the core Mindfulness practices.
The third A stands for Acceptance. Acceptance is the invitation of all experiences with a sense of accommodation during mindfulness practices. We notice the discomfort, distractions, rumination and all of them without any kind of judgement.
Naturally, people tend to measure their practice based on two values - quantity and quality. It is common for someone to consider a 30 minute practice to be better than a 5 minute practice. Such measurements are primarily an attempt to measure the period of ‘doing’ in mindfulness practices. However, nothing can really measure the ‘being’ in your practice. Because ‘Being’ is all about being in the present moment. The present moment cannot be measured and hence we are not looking for success in our mindfulness practices. Instead we welcome everything that happens in our mind space. We welcome them like guests who come to our home uninvited.
In summary, Mindfulness is all about Self-Awareness, Paying Attention and Practicing Acceptance.