Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I was first introduced to the concept of mindfulness at a time in my life when I was desperately searching for a way to address my physical problems (failed surgery) without going stark, raving mad. I kept thinking about how badly things had gone--not just my operation, but so many things in my life. And when I wasn't obsessing about the past, the future made me crazy with fear. What if they couldn't fix my hip? What if I had to live like this forever? What if I never got to travel again? What if I could never go for a simple walk again? I was living either in the past or in the future. The present didn't exist. I suspect this is a common problem for many people. I have a strong tendency to obsess over things that are done and gone, things that I can't take back or that I should have done better or not done at all. I also imagine all kinds of horrible things that could happen. I won't even give you a sample of my crazy worrying.

Mindfulness is the polar opposite of everything I just described. In a nutshell, it means living in the present. Here is a slightly more elaborate definition that I found in Wikipedia:

Psychological "mindfulness" is broadly conceptualized, say Bishop et al.(2004:232), as "a kind of nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, present-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is". They propose a two-component operational definition of "mindfulness".

The first component involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is
characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance. (2004:232) The former mindfulness component of self-regulated attention involves conscious awareness ofone's current thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, which can result in metacognitive skills for controlling concentration. The latter mindfulness component of orientation to experience involves accepting one's mindstream, maintaining open and curious attitudes, and thinking in alternative categories [...]

OK, that was a quite a bit more elaborate, but well worth reading.

What does this have to do with a weight loss/health/personal journey? A lot, in my opinion.

While planning and goal setting are laudable activities, without mindfulnesss, you can't fully benefit from the moment that you are actually doing all these wonderful things that you dreamed about or planned for so long.

The same applies when you're living in the past and rehashing all the horrible (though often minor) mistakes you made, turning them around in your mind. How can anyone move on when they can't stop themselves from living in the past?

Tomorrow and yesterday. I know what has already happened and yes, to a certain extent it helps me to forecast the future. But remember that famous line you find in every financial prospectus: "past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results". BTW, there are over 6 million hits for this phrase.

I think that if I have one new year's resolution, it is not to exercise more or lose more weight. My resolution is to live more in the moment: to be aware of how I feel, both mentally and physically and honour those feelings; to stop and smell the roses; to respect my hunger and my fullness now, not in some hypothetical future.

So I think this means that resolutions are out the window: my resolution is to be here now.


  1. Sister, you are singing my song. I constantly fixate on ridiculous things that happened a million years ago or haven't happened at all.

    I first heard about mindfulness this summer at meditation class. It is a wonderful concept, but hard for me to accomplish. Practice makes perfect.

  2. That is so true. I'm still learning, but it's making a huge difference in my life.

  3. you have done it again ! by which I mean, you have written a fantastic blog entry which turned out to be just the thing I needed to see.... Thank you !