Mindfulness: The art of paying attention on purpose


mindfulnessSleepily, I tiptoed to the kitchen to make my morning tea. As I gripped the bright yellow lemon I noticed it’s firm, dimpled outer rind. I wondered for a moment about the hands that picked it and the tree from which it came. I acknowledged the sunshine, clouds, rain, and earth that provided the conditions to make it grow. I rinsed it and watched the drops of water cascade around its surface. I cut into its middle and witnessed the nectar escaping to the countertop and bursting toward the sky. It’s citrus aroma exploded, filling the room and my nostrils with its unmistakable tart bounty. With each breath the anticipation of its delightful flavor built as my mouth began to water.

Is your mouth watering? Can you see the lemon? When was the last time you paid attention on purpose to something as simple?

This is mindfulness. It’s an awakening.  It’s being fully present in the moment and focused on what’s actually happening around you. It seemingly slows down time. It’s calming, grounding, and connects you to the present moment.

When you engage all five senses, you fully experience your environment and activities. It keeps you here now, instead of racing to the unknown future which can trigger anxiety, or lamenting the past which can lead to regret and sadness.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Master of Mindfulness, “People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to.” He refers to mindfulness as “the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally… It often results in apprehending the constantly changing nature of sensations, even highly unpleasant ones, and thus their impermanence.”, he says.  Further, he refers to meditation as “a radical act of self love and sanity.”.

It has side effects of increasing happiness, compassion, and openness. All of these are healthy qualities than can reduce stress, which overtime can lead to illness if not managed well.

What are the ways to practice mindfulness? Stop and take a breath. Notice the sensations of breathing. Look around your environment and deliberately practice gratitude for the beautiful things that bring you joy. Take time to tap into your five senses and nothing else. Do a body scan for tension or discomfort. EMDR Therapy mindfulnessStay in tune with your present moment experience.

A few opportunities for practicing mindfulness:

  • Waking up in a cozy bed.
  • The warmth of a hot shower.
  • The aroma of morning coffee.
  • The smile on a child’s face.
  • The touch of your lover’s hand.
  • Walking in a park or on a sidewalk.
  • Your posture sitting at your desk.

Scan your body and environment. Get out of your head and into the moment.

“Many people are alive but don’t touch the miracle of being alive.”- Thich Nhat Hanh


About Heather Edwards

Heather Edwards is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Board Certified Coach, & National Certified Counselor. She is a frequent contributor to Psychology Today. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling, corporate and life coaching.