Mindfulness is about operating in the present moment. Farmers are especially good at that. Cows need milking? Focus on milking the cows. Fields needs plowing? Focus on plowing the fields. We start to get ourselves into trouble when we spend a lot of our time thinking about what we're not doing in the present moment. Cows need milking? Better to focus on milking the cows rather than worrying about how you're going to pay that feed bill (i.e., not being in the present moment).
Focusing on the present moment of course can be easier said than done. And if we find we're not good at it, it's a skill like any other that can be developed. We can develop mindfulness through dedicated practice. We learn to practice by first focusing one thing, such as our breath, and noticing what are breath feels like when we breathe in and out. In mindfulness, we then expand what we notice: we notice our thoughts and bodily sensations. We don't allow ourselves to get absorbed in our thoughts. We just notice them. There's a big difference. When we non-judgmentally observe our thoughts, we begin to learn about our patterns of thinking, and we can gently remind ourselves to refocus our attention on the present moment. The more we do this (refocus our attention to the present) the easier it becomes.
You can practice mindfulness formally, usually done in a form called meditation, or you can practice it informally, as you go about your day. In the latter case, you might devote a few minutes each hour to checking in and noticing where your thoughts are at and how your body feels.
There is a huge body of scientific research that shows that the practice of mindfulness helps us to be more productive and healthier. Mindfulness can make us more resilient and less susceptible to depression or anxiety. Studies have shown that people who regularly practice mindfulness have vastly improved health outcomes on a range of issues, including less pain and reduced heart disease.
Some of our counselors have a lot of experience teaching mindfulness and can help you to learn how to practice and develop this key skill. Contact us for help.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
by Wendell Berry (farmer and poet)