Sometimes, it is helpful to break down what’s mindfulness. Mindfulness is about at least three things: our intention, attention, and attitude. First, mindfulness is said to be based on intention or making a conscious choice, a decision to shape one’s experience. This includes the intention to practice, as well as the intentionality one brings to directing, sustaining or switching attention. The intention to consciously focus attention on a object such as the breath is the basis of mindfulness.
Second, focused attention itself is a defining feature of mindfulness. It includes focused, broad and sustained attention, and skills in switching attention from one stimulus to another. Attention is tied to the ability to pay close attention to details in tasks or activities and not to be overwhlemed by extraneous stimuli. Attention can be considered a form of self-regulation and can help us to deal with difficult emotions. Evidently, sensations, emotions, and thoughts can never be kept from coming up. This brings us to the next dimension.
Third, mindfulness is not merely about focusing attention but about a focus in a particular way. It is grounded in particular attitudes that allow for acceptance of whatever arises in the mind. These attittudes commonly include non-judgment, acceptance, trust, patience, non-striving, curiosity, and kindness. They are developed by intentionally sustaining attention to internal and external stimuli without immediately evaluating them as either “good” or “bad” through an awareness of their transitional and changing nature. It involves a stepping back from mostly unconscious habits that shape what we do, feel, and think in everyday life. This does not mean that we have to just accept everything that happens to us or other people. But more about that later.