Mindfulness and How it Works

Mindfulness emerges when we’re in the present moment with felt awareness.

To understand mindfulness better, it’s sometimes easier to contemplate it’s inverse: mind-wandering. Mind-wandering occurs when we’re caught in thoughts or emotions of the past or future. It’s something we all do because of the way we are designed. When we’re doing one thing and thinking of another, when we take the wrong exit out of habit, when we find ourselves reacting or withdrawing in conversations, when we daydream, worry continuously about something – we are essentially mind-wandering. It’s something everybody experiences most of the time and there is a purpose to it however, left unattended, becomes imbalanced and over time brings about distress. For example, when our emotional triggers from the past influence our reaction in the present.

Why does Mind-Wandering even happen?
Mother Nature designed our thought processing to be highly efficient. When we engage in an activity that does not require full attention (e.g. routine tasks), our brain places a small amount of attention on that task while all other resources process pending work such as to-do lists, making sense of conversations, bringing up existing problems, or forming creative ideas. Everything that the brain perceives is in need of attention is processed while we go about our routine tasks. This its equivalent of ‘housekeeping’, a design of Mother Nature for maximum efficiency. This is great when a creative idea pops into mind while doing the laundry, or when we’re executing a task and our forward-thinking warns us of danger, or when we’re reminded of something important, or when our wandering thoughts strike up a new idea. But most of the time, due to the collective stress we live in as a society, the thoughts that pop are unhelpful, painful, or uncomfortable.

Mind-wandering serves its purpose, but left unattended, crosses into unknown territories and continues on that path until we pause and switch into the driver’s seat through Mindfulness.

The Return from Mind-Wandering
Mindfulness is the return to becoming aware, which happens when mind-wandering dissolves, even if for a moment. We all would have had an experience of this. It could be when we feel mesmerised by nature, thrilled by adrenaline or involved in an engaging conversation where our attention is at its fullest. When we engage in Mindfulness, we train ourselves to return to this awareness but this time, intentionally. This means we begin grow the ability to become more present as and when we choose to.