By practicing ‘putting up with little cares, we train ourselves to work with great adversity’
— Shantideva —
One of the core processes in ACT therapy, mindful awareness, has its origin in Eastern religion and philosophy but in one form or another has been a part of most all world theologies as well as philosophical thought. It has most often been associated with the practice of meditation, but from an ACT perspective, mindfulness can most simply be defined as: “paying attention with openness, curiosity, and flexibility” (Harris). Contrary to what many people believe, mindful awareness is not a passive exercise of emptying one’s mind of thought. It is not an exercise in relaxation or trying to be peaceful. On the contrary, it’s function is to increase one’s awareness of how and of what one is thinking and feeling with the goal of fostering the individual’s willingness to be present and fully experience the complete gamut of their thoughts and emotions.
As with any new skill mindful awareness must be diligently and deliberately practiced in order to be effectively utilized, especially during stressful and challenging circumstances. That is, it’s unreasonable to think we could remain present and aware during a major crisis or very stressful situation if we haven’t practiced it in calmer times. By learning to remain present and mindfully aware during the little annoyances of an ordinary day, we prepare ourselves to successfully navigate whatever adversity might befall us.