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What is mindfulness anyways?

Living with More Joy and Gratitude

When you pay close attention to each moment, you can start to see the small wonders of life. Maybe the sky is a fabulous shade of blue today. Maybe your best friend’s smile warms your heart. There are wonders in every moment, just waiting for you to be present and recognize them. Maybe if you pay close attention, it feels good just to breathe. The cool air entering your lungs—how wonderful that can feel, like a glass of cool water on a hot day! Even when things are stressful in your life, this very breath can be a small moment of joy. Just by paying attention to your breath, you might feel grateful to be alive, grateful that your lungs are working and that you have air to breathe.Be careful, however, to not get too attached to whatever it is you’re enjoying. Perhaps you have a tendency to want to hold on to happy moments, wishing every moment could be like that. But every moment can’t be happy, and, in hard times, wishing for things to be different than the way they are will only increase your suffering. With mindfulness, you can breathe in and enjoy, then breathe out and let go. You don’t need to hold on to anything. Each breath heralds a new moment—and, perhaps, something new to enjoy. You can practice mindfulness in this way anytime, no matter where you are.

Try This! Mindfulness of Pleasant Events

Over the next few days, pay attention to the small pleasant moments in your life. When you notice a pleasant moment, smile and allow a pleasant emotion like happiness or gratitude to arise.

Experiencing a pleasant emotion is like having your best friend come over for a visit. Recognize your pleasant emotion. Enjoy it while it lasts. When it starts to fade, let it go. You don’t need to try to hold on to happiness, just as you wouldn’t force your best friend to stay any longer than he or she wanted to. Just breathe again, smile again, and open your mind and heart to the next moment, whatever arises.

Here is a short saying from Thich Nhat Hanh (1993, 15) that I use to help myself practice mindfulness of pleasant events. You can try it, too. Any time you notice a small pleasant moment in your life, say silently to yourself:
Breathing in, I know this is a pleasant moment.
Breathing out, I smile.
Pleasant moment.

How does this simple practice change your experience of those moments?