Mindfulness (“sati” in Pali) is when you bring your attention to what is occurring in the present moment and observe it without judgement or evaluation. It trains your mind to break the habit of wallowing in the future or past, which can be a source of suffering.
Mindfulness was formalized in Buddhist texts as a specific technique to bring balance (equanimity, or balance) to the mind. The breath is used across different techniques and traditions as a useful thing to focus on and stay mindful of the present moment.
Why do mindfulness techniques often use the breath? Five reasons:
- It’s baggage-free. The breath is not tied to any particular sect, religion, or spiritual practice; it belongs to all living things.
- It’s instant. You can sense your breath any time, any place, without stopping what you’re doing.
- It’s soothing. Like ocean waves, the breath is soothing because it elegantly and consistently goes in and out, to and fro.
- It’s now. Because the breath is happening now, it brings the mind back from the past or future.
- It’s our body. The breath connects us back to our physical bodies from floating in our heads.
Because Spire tracks your breath throughout your day, some have referred to it as the first “mindfulness tracker”. Fair enough, but let’s expand the word “mindfulness” to mean being aware of your own state of mind throughout your day and in different situations. By being more aware of how you feel and your state of mind, you can tap the innate wisdom of your own body, which will tell you what it needs for optimal health and performance.
A recent Spire Beta user mentioned that throughout the week, he had several experiences with Spire that created more awareness in his day and helped him avoid getting worked up. This helped him think and make decisions more clearly (and be more “mindful”). The value of these important moments can be great.
“A moment of patience
In a moment of anger
Can save a thousand moments of regret.”
These moments define the quality of our lives: how we respond to life’s challenges and enjoy life’s little gifts. So let’s take a moment to feel our breath go in and out – without evaluating it. This trains our brains to savor experiences instead of judging them – a gift not only to ourselves, but to everybody around us.
Update July 2015: We have released a free email course detailing the Hourglass Workday – a method for increasing focus, mindfulness, and productivity. Click here to see the lesson plan and learn more about the Hourglass Workday.