Everything we do in life can be done mindlessly (without awareness) or mindfully (with awareness). Mindful practice involves a wide range of practical techniques including mindful breathing, mindful movement, scanning bodily sensations, listening to sounds and observing the thoughts and feelings that flow through our minds and bodies.
The core of the practice is mindful breathing, watching the breath as it flows in and out of the body, not trying to control it in any way, but noticing how it comes and goes and how our body responds to it.
We can learn and practice mindfulness both formally and informally.
Formal mindfulness practice usually involves sitting or lying down and using one of the many techniques available to notice what is happening in and around the body, moment after moment. By doing so, a sense of calm, peace and tranquility is usually achieved, helping to restore the balance of both the mind and body.
Informal mindfulness practice usually involves deliberately increasing our focus and awareness as we go about our daily activites, for example, while taking a shower, while washing up, while driving or while talking to someone at home or at work. Informal practice allows us to take what we learned and apply it in the real world where we inevitably encounter difficulties and stresses.
In addition to learning the techniques, mindfulness involves understanding and cultivating certain attitudes of being, involving how we relate to ourselves, to others and to the world around us. These include ways of relating such as being non-judgmental, patience, trust and acceptance. We bring these attitudes to our practice and, in turn, our practice helps us to bring these attitudes into the real world.
In order to gain the maximum benefit from mindfulness practice, it is recommended that it is done both formally and informally on a daily basis, but even a small amount on a weekly basis can be beneficial.