When I taught mindfulness at retreat centers, treatment facilities, the cancer center or 1:1 with coaching clients I have found that there is a lot of confusion around what mindfulness practice is and what it is not. Everyone is teaching mindfulness, but the techniques, intentions and goals of the practices differ greatly.
To help orient group participants at treatment centers I came up with the simple acronym “N.A.A.P.” to help me ground the concept in practice. In short, mindfulness practice is:
N – a Non-judgemental
A – Awareness and
A – Acceptance of
P – the Present moment.
We will take a closer look here. To orient to our lives, our thoughts, our experiences, our physical sensations and our emotions in both an experiential way without judging it is a remarkable endeavor. To fully feel our feelings of joy or anger, then to come back to our object of meditation, mindfulness or focus as the anchor, allows us to see the emotions and experience as something that “just happens, then dissolves.” If we can train ourselves both to experience things as they happen, without getting swept up in the tendency to solidify it with a story line, etc., we can see that we exist in a flow of life that is constantly moving through us.
So, if we are able to not judge and/or block out our experience of pain, joy, heartbreak, hope, etc., with preconceived notions, we can experience them more fully. This goes for our experiences with people as well. As we continue to practice we gain more understanding of how our minds work and an experience of how our emotions feel. And, in this forum, we practice “doing nothing” about our thoughts or emotions. We acknowledge them, notice what they are or how they feel, accept them as they are (not a “right/wrong”, judgement-oriented “acceptance”) and then return to the anchors to the moment – be they breath, the sound of birds or airplanes outside, or the sound of someone breathing or… snoring.
This N.A.A.P. time allows us the time and place to just “be”. To drop the project of “me” – whether it be fixing, healing, holding up a heavy self-identity or whatever your particular story might be. Mindfulness practices allow us to remove what is unnecessary from our lives for a few moments so that we can re-connect with simplicity. Re-connect with our breath, discover relaxation and self-acceptance, and begin to experience a world where things are actually OK. This is a world where, in this moment, when we can relax with our breath, our bodies and our environment just as they are – making room for it all – that we discover the magic in the very ordinary that we often overlook.