What is mindfulness?

March 17, 2024

Mindfulness is a trendy topic. Your watch urges you to embrace it; soap brands market themselves with images of people sitting in mudra position, and image generators, no more original, suggest muscular individuals in a state of unfathomable fulfillment. Yet, the concept remains elusive, surrounded by Buddhism, cereal boxes, or more or less complicated recipes to attain wisdom.

Initially, I asked ChatGPT to explain. Afterwards, I requested it to include concrete examples and exercises to improve this mindset. Then, I added my thoughts, corrected repetitions, and deleted some clichés. Thus, the text from ChatGPT became merely a canvas to hasten my inspiration. I haven't achieved mindfulness. I believe I experienced it in bits. This text is a suggestion for exploration.

Mindfulness: Cultivating Clarity in a Distracted World

In a constantly moving world where distractions abound and stress is omnipresent, mindfulness emerges as an internal compass, offering refuge in the storm of our modern lives.

A Practice Rooted in Ancient Wisdom

Although popular today, mindfulness finds its roots in ancient meditation practices, notably in the teachings of Buddhism and other spiritual traditions. At its core, mindfulness involves being fully present and aware of the present moment with open and non-judgmental attention.

Example Exercise: Mindful Breathing
A simple exercise to achieve this state involves focusing on your breathing. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and direct your attention to your breath entering and leaving your body. Observe the movement of your abdomen or airflow in your nostrils. Whenever your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breathing without judgment. Think: Thought and let it go. It's normal to have thoughts; that's how we're made—no need to fight them. Just catalogue them as such. They are but a part of your consciousness.

Living in the Present Moment

A legacy of our survival instinct, we are often swept up in a whirlwind of thoughts about the past and future, about what we have done and need to do. This robs us of the richness of the present experience. Mindfulness invites us to break this cycle and return to the present moment. Observing our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment increases our awareness of our immediate experience.

Example exercise: Mindful Walking
When you walk, be fully aware of each step you take. Feel the pressure of your feet on the ground, observe the movements of your arms and legs, and be mindful of the sounds around you, the smells, and the physical sensations. Focusing on the present moment can transform a mundane activity into a learning opportunity.

You may then notice that time seems to stop. The influx of information you receive by doing this exercise might seem immense. Don't be overwhelmed, which is the danger and a great paradox. Too much is not enough, as they say. But still appreciate the richness it brings.

Reducing Stress and Cultivating Mental Well-being

Numerous scientific studies have shown the benefits of mindfulness on mental and emotional health. Regularly practicing mindfulness teaches us to regulate our responses to stress, cultivate emotional resilience, and improve our overall well-being. By becoming aware of our thoughts and emotions, we can observe them objectively and choose how to respond rather than reacting automatically.

Example exercise: Body Scan
Sit or lie down comfortably, and focus on different body parts, starting from your feet and moving up to your head. Feel the physical sensations, tensions, or areas of comfort. Release any tension or discomfort you may feel by breathing deeply and relaxing.

This is often used in yoga during the final phase of exercises, the Savasana or corpse pose, which involves lying down on the ground on your back. It's a posture for deep relaxation that allows the integration of all the benefits of the practice into the body and mind. Again, we notice the richness of information that the present moment provides us.

Cultivating Mental Clarity and Attention

In a world where attention is a precious resource constantly solicited, mindfulness helps us train our minds to be more focused and present. By practicing mindfulness exercises, such as seated meditation or mindfulness in motion, we strengthen our ability to maintain our attention where we wish while learning to recognize and let go of the thoughts and distractions that arise.

Example exercise: Seated Meditation
Sit comfortably and adopt the mudra position: hands placed on the knees, palms facing the sky, thumbs and index fingers slightly touching to form a circle. This position symbolizes concentration and unity of the mind.

Close your eyes and again focus on your breathing or the sensations in your body. Let thoughts come and go without clinging to them, simply observing them pass like clouds in the sky. Ultimately, it always comes back to the same thing: observing the more or less slow wave of your breathing.

Cultivating Deeper Relationships

Mindfulness is not limited to our relationship with ourselves; it also extends to our relationships with others. By being fully present in our interactions, actively listening, and cultivating empathetic awareness, we enrich our relationships and strengthen our connection with others.

Example exercise: Active Listening
When in conversation, practice active listening by fully concentrating on what the other person is saying. Avoid getting carried away by your thoughts or anticipated responses. Give the other person your full attention, observe their body language, and be open to understanding their feelings and needs.

A More Advanced Technique: Lucid Visualization

Andrew Holecek, an expert in meditation and mindfulness, suggests lucid visualization as a powerful technique. In this practice, one becomes aware of the state of one's dreams, allowing for the development of a conscious presence even during sleep. His book explains a lot and in clear language. I haven't finished reading it yet.

For more information on this advanced technique, see the book "Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep."


In a world where speed and distraction are often considered the norm, mindfulness invites us to slow down, stop, and fully appreciate each moment. By cultivating this ancient practice, we can find refuge in the storm, develop mental clarity, reduce stress, and grow deeper relationships. Whether through formal meditation or simple moments of daily awareness, mindfulness offers a precious gift: the opportunity to live fully and with intention in the complex and often turbulent world.

Illustrations: mainly Midjourney but also DALL-E