01 April 2013

The 2 top ways to develop mindfulness in daily life.

We all notice how good it feels when someone gives us their full and undivided attention. This is mindfulness. Really being interested, really giving our full attention to someone or something; and doing it non-judgementally.

This week, the 2 best ways to develop mindfulness, news of next week’s workshops in Perth and Denmark, breaking news on soy and cancer, and some great other events. But first

Thought for the week
The miracle is not to walk on water. 
The miracle is to walk on the green earth, 
Dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.

                                                                         Thich Nhat Hanh

Mindfulness is a particular state of mind that is easy to learn, relevant to everything we do, alleviates stress and generates joy! No wonder it is becoming trendy. And being easy to research, the scientists love it. There is now good science to support the claims that mindfulness will enhance your health and wellbeing, and support healing in general.

How then to best develop mindfulness? There are two great ways; both relatively simple, both of great benefit to practise.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an American who has helped popularise this way of training our minds. He defines mindfulness as focussing our attention on our current moment experience, deliberately and non-judgementally.

By contrast, being mindless is when we are doing something and our mind is elsewhere; thinking of someone or something else, dwelling on the past or fantasising about the future.

Now of course, mindlessness is pretty normal – as in very common! This is why most of us benefit from training to be more mindful; more focussed, more present.

Step 1: Focussed mindfulness

To learn to become more mindful, we begin by practising what we call focussed or deliberate mindfulness. This is where we focus our attention on just one thing, deliberately and with no judgement.

So this can be as simple as formally paying attention to the sounds around about us, to our breath, our body; whatever one thing we choose to focus upon with our attention, while at the same time, we aim to remain like a non-judgemental observer; as much as possible, free of internal commentary, free of judgement.

There is a natural peace in simply being mindful. We practice and begin to appreciate this. With our minds open, curious, aware; we notice whatever it is that we have chosen to focus upon. No need to force anything, or deny anything. Open. Aware. Free of judgement. Mindful. So easy.

Of course, when we aim to be mindful our mind can wander; we can become distracted or simply “space out”. Again, we benefit from noticing this. Whenever necessary, we bring our mind back to the focus of our mindfulness.

Remember too the benefits of relaxation. Everything is easier in a relaxed body. So as we practise mindfulness, we will benefit from consciously relaxing our bodies.

Step 2: Open mindfulness

Open mindfulness is the next step. This is as simple as being fully aware of whatever comes into our awareness at this particular moment. No more, no less. Rather than choosing to focus on something in particular as we do with focussed mindfulness, now we simply notice whatever it is that comes to our attention.

Maybe it is the sounds around about us, maybe our own thoughts, some sensations from our body. We simply notice whatever it is that does come to our awareness and we aim to do so free of any commentary, free of any judgement.

First we practise open mindfulness formally, sitting as we would for meditation. Then we experiment with open mindfulness in the course of our normal day. Mindfulness teaches us to be more present, more in the present moment and soon we begin to notice a wonderful thing.

There is actually no stress in the present moment. No anxiety either. We create stress and anxiety by excessive, unhelpful thinking and this necessitates that we are "out of time". To be stressed we need to think about and be affected by the past or the future; we need to be out of time. In the present there is only peace.

As we practise and learn to be more mindful, we learn to give more attention to the present moment. Of course memories from the past are still useful and planning for the future makes good sense. But now we do not dwell on them. We remember the past with an increasing fondness. We do all we can towards an ideal future, and we learn to combine this with going with the flow.

The bonus: Mindfulness in daily life

The formal practice of mindfulness translates directly into daily life. The more we learn to give our full attention to whatever or who ever we are engaged with, the better everything flows. This is why mindfulness is such a good practice to learn and develop in formal sessions, and then to take with you into daily life.

Of course, mindfulness also quite naturally leads into the deeper stillness of meditation. So many good reasons to develop mindfulness.


1. COMING WORKSHOPS with Ian and Ruth; and links to the details

April  4; Evening dinner and talk with Verity James and Ian, along with Ross Taylor launching You Can Conquer Cancer in the West.

13 – 14: Weekend workshop: A New Way of Living

April 5; Evening dinner and conversation for health professionals

April 6; Day workshop: Creating Health & Preventing Disease



How fortunate are we! This will be the Dalai Lama’s ninth visit to Australia and this time His Holiness will provide thought provoking scope to explore the positive impact of ethical behaviour on ourselves, our loved ones, fellow human beings, communities, countries and ultimately our shared global community.

Based on His Holiness book, Beyond Religion, Ethics for a Whole World, His Holiness will discuss how to put ethics into practice in everyday life.

14th – 16th June – Sydney Teachings: Jewel Lamp: A Praise of Bodhichitta

16th June – Sydney Public Talk: Ethical Mindfulness in Everyday Life

18th June – Melbourne Public Talk: Compassion, the Foundation of Wellbeing

19th June – Braybrook, Vic; Teachings: The Heart Sutra and Eight Verses for Mind Training

21st June – Adelaide Public Talk: The Quest for Happiness

23rd June – Darwin Public Talk: Ethics in Our Shared World

23rd June – Teachings: The Four Noble Truths

Visit the website for further information and to book tickets: www.dalailamainaustralia.org

3. Mindfulness, Meditation, Wellness and their connection to corporate America's Bottom Line

Arianna Huffington discusses the growing trend in corporate America to take steps -- meditation, yoga, mindfulness trainings -- to reduce stress and improve health and creativity.

Arianna comments “Even a quick look at what's happening in the American workplace shows that it's a seriously split-screen world. On the one hand, there's the stressful world of quarterly earnings reports, beating growth expectations, hard-charging CEOs, and focusing on the bottom line -- the world that is the usual focus of CNBC and Squawk Box.

On the other hand, there's the world populated by the growing awareness of the costs of stress, not just in the health and well-being of business leaders and employees, but on the bottom line as well.

Interested? Link here.


I have been asked to speak on Meditation and Sustainability in my local community in a few weeks. A nice opportunity if you care to visit the Upper Yarra Valley, meet some of the locals and learn more about sustainability.

Yarra Valley ECOSS: Community Festival - Celebrating Sustainability in the Yarra Valley
10 - 4 pm Sunday 21st, April 2013;    Yarra Junction Parklands. Including the Upper Yarra Museum and The Sport and Aquatic centre (Mel ref 288 D7)

Workshops and speakers     Great live music      Market stalls
Butter making, hay baling, blacksmithing and old time children games
Open day at the Sports and Aquatic centre
Scooter & BMX Demonstrations    Scrumptious food     Woman's Red Tent
Recycled Fashion parade    Alternate transport Display       Solar and pedal powered stage

5. Breaking research news

Soy Products Improve Survival in Women with Lung Cancer - March 27, 2013

Soy products can improve survival from lung cancer, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. In the Shanghai Women’s Health Study, 444 women were diagnosed with lung cancer. Researchers examined the women’s diets before and after their cancer diagnosis. Those who ate the most soy products cut their risk of dying by nearly half, compared with women who ate the least amount of soy.

Previous studies have shown that soy products reduce the risk of developing lung cancer, and have a similar ability to reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

Yang G, Shu XO, Li HL, et al. Prediagnosis Soy Food Consumption and Lung Cancer Survival in Women. J Clin Oncol. Published online on March 25, 2013.

Yang G, Shu XO, Chow WH, et al. Soy food intake and risk of lung cancer: evidence from the Shanghai Women's Health Study and a meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2012;176:846-855.

Meditation in 4 easy steps

BOOK: Meditation - an In-depth Guide

CDS: Meditation - a complete path

Mind Training

Meditation in the Desert - come to Central Australia and experience the heart of mindfulness and meditation


  1. This is really helpful information. I have been struggling with where to focus my attention when practising mindfulness and the simple notion of focussed and open attention is great - it has made a difference already. Many thanks Ian

  2. Focus is probably one of the more difficult attributes to practice in a world that is now full of static and often useless attention seeking material and noise.
    My local GP has a little sign above her desk that says 'The secret of patient care is caring for the patient' which in a sense sums up some of what you are describing.
    Another comment which I think is relevant was a quote I picked up a while ago. 'Be more like your dog and become absorbed in what you are doing for the moment' - focused mindfulness perhaps

    1. Great quotes. Simplicity at its best. The secret to patient care is caring for the patient. And being a vet., a good dog embodies unconditional love. Woof, woof!

  3. Thanks for your great blog, you made it "mindfully" simple to understand the two concepts of focused and open attention. I recently came across another site, Pscychalive that has a free webinar on mindfulness and happiness that your readers maybe interested in on April 18th.https://www1.gotomeeting.com/island/webinar/registration.tmpl?id=452802944