“paying extraordinary attention to ordinary experience”
Mindfulness or mindful awareness, in the most basic sense, is about paying attention . . . paying attention to what’s going on within us and around us at any given moment. Mindfulness teacher, consultant and author, Maria Gonzalez simply describes mindfulness as “paying extraordinary attention to ordinary experience”.
What do we pay attention to? We are sensory beings. We pay attention to ourselves and our world through our sensory experiences. Psychologist, mindfulness teacher and author, Janet Sims, describes it this way: “Touching, feeling, hearing, seeing: we are, and life is what our senses experience at each moment. Sensation is how we know that we are alive; as humans, all our awareness is grounded in our sensory experience. Sensation is also what we seek out every day of our lives. Everything we know, experience, learn, or desire comes through our senses.”
At times, we can get lost in the amount and frequency of input we receive through our multiple sensory channels. What’s happening around us tangles with what’s happening inside us leading to the inner experience of confusion and/or overwhelm but also, perhaps, an outer experience of action that’s less skillful than we desire.
In her book, Mindful Awareness and Strategy, Dr. Sims offers three manageable and relatable categories to untangle, track and work with the complexity and intermingling of sensory experiences:
What we see and hear internally
(mental / visual images & mental / self-talk)
What we feel internally & externally as physical & emotional body sensations
What we see and hear externally
(physical signs & physical sounds)
“all our awareness is grounded in our sensory experience”
As our skill at paying attention to our sensory experience – really paying attention – strengthens, we find we have a heightened, sharper awareness through which we can experience any/all aspects of our life. We may also find our ability to process experience becomes more effective and efficient opening us to greater insight and the presence of new possibilities. Our range of choice for how we respond to ourselves, to others, to situations, and to life, in general, expands in a way that may feel more natural to us and even, to some extent, effortless.