Mindfulness is a state of mind that cannot really be explained. It has to be experienced. Fortunately, the technique used for learning mindfulness, called mindfulness meditation, is simple and accessible to anyone with patience and an open mind.
There are many, often unhelpful, definitions of mindfulness that can lead students to mistake a stage in their development for the achievement of a mindful state of mind. This happened to me on numerous occasions, so I am wary of trying to define mindfulness but I think that I have a responsibility for explaining it as well as I can so here goes. Remember that the words are not the thing itself. They are pointers to it like a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.
For me, the experiences that I had in the past that were closest to the state of mindfulness that I currently experience were what have been described by psychologists as ‘peak experiences‘.
Peak experiences are those rare moments where a combination of extraordinary peace of mind, calmness, a sense of connection and purpose transcend daily life to a level that is quite remarkable.
Whenever I experienced this, everything seemed just right. Time slowed, colours appeared richer and more vibrant, momentarily, life seemed to be enhanced. These moments soon passed, leaving only a memory as I returned to my relatively mundane life.
Mindfulness meditation is a collection of simple practices that, over time, can lead to mindfulness as an accessible state of mind in our daily lives. This leads to an otherwise elusive calmness and peace of mind.
The basic practice consists of focusing attention on the breath and repeatedly returning that focus to the breath when the mind inevitably wanders. There are a number of other meditations that support this basic practice.