According to the dictionary, mindfulness, a noun, is the state of being conscious or aware of something. Mindfulness meditation then, is remaining in that state of being, while the something we are conscious and aware of is the present moment. Fully, and completely. No traveling on our thoughts to the past or the future, just remaining in the now.
How can you remain in the now? In Mindfulness meditation the idea is to focus on your breathing and allow your thoughts to arise, just noticing them without following their thread or reacting to them, and always returning your focus to your breath. It’s rather like watching a toddler, they wander away (like your attention following your thought) and you guide them back. Back to the breath, back to the center.
This practice of being mindful is to keep your attention in the present moment, while acknowledging thoughts, feelings, and sensations and letting them just be, without getting lost in them. You can add on to this basic practice in various ways, like scanning your body for sensations, or identifying the distraction from your breathing as a thought or feeling, and whether it is pleasant or unpleasant. But it is not necessary. You can keep it super simple.
I have learned several different types of meditation over the course of my adult life. Some have come to me through spiritual teachers, some through friends. Each one has been useful and has shown me some new level of understanding. I’ve approached my meditation practice in spells, that is, not as consistently as one hopes to. Despite the obvious benefits of a regular practice, I guess on some level it seemed like another thing I had to do. Being a rebellious sort, this made me want to avoid it. Which of course, is missing the point. This past year I was introduced to the Mindfulness technique, and I find the simplicity of it to be so welcome, and so useful when applied to daily life. I wonder what took me so long in getting to it. The more I practice it the more I am able to remain centered in daily life. It’s nice to be able to remain calm and not be swept up by life’s dramas.
One of my friends from the group recommended a great little meditation application called Headspace(1), which starts with a free trial. There are also many resources on the internet, some completely free(2).
Here is a great article about the mindfulness of the “planet’s happiest human”(3) and the app(4) he created.