If you're up-to-date on your buzzwords, then you'll know that mindfulness is the new black.
It seems that everyone has their own idea of what it means to be mindful. Apps like Headspace, Smiling Mind and iMindfulness promise to help you center yourself, clear the noise from your brain and assist to de-stress. There really is an app for everything.
The practice of awareness has made its way into the corporate vernacular, with progressive companies hoping to boost productivity and morale by adopting mindfulness and meditation into their employees' daily schedules.
Former Monk, turned entrepreneur, Dandapani recently explained that mindfulness is talked about a lot, but people are often misguided on what it really means or how to implement it into their lives.
He explained that before approaching mindfulness, it's important to start by looking at the true meaning of the word. Literally picking up a dictionary and looking at the definition of the word is the best place to start.
"Everybody can define a word their own way, but I always default to what is official," Dandapani says.
For those playing at home, dictionary.com defines mindfulness as, "the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something."
Dandapani says once you are familiar with what the word means, you can start to apply a systematic approach to the implementation of mindfulness. He gives three steps to follow before implementing a regular mindfulness practice.
1. Learn how the mind works
Dandapani recommends first learning how the mind functions; noting that we're all given a mind, but, knowing how to use it is a separate thing altogether. He likens the mind to a piece of software that we haven't been given the manual for.
"If someone knows how to use software it's only then that they get the full benefit out of it," Dandapani says, adding that the mind is very similar. "We need to understand that we can control where our awareness goes in our mind and, as a result, what state of mind we are functioning in."
2. Work on your concentration
Dandapani says being able to concentrate is imperative when it comes to achieving mindfulness. And the key to being good at concentration? First learning how to concentrate then practicing it. He says it's something that we don't get taught to do and as a result are unable to practice.
"We get told to concentrate when we're growing up, but we never get taught how to," Dandapani says. "To become good at concentration you need to actually practice it, the same way if you want to be a good tennis player or dancer - we have to practice. The more you practice something the better you get at it. But if you don't learn concentration and don't practice it, you'll never be good at it."
3. Develop your willpower
Dandapani says you need a lot of will to focus. Once you focus your mind you can start to be observant of the environment around you. The byproduct of prolonged states of concentration is observation.
"I define willpower as a mental muscle," Dandapani says. "If you could draw biceps on your mind, that would be your willpower."
Once you've completed an honest self-assessment using these three steps, that's when you can start to regularly be conscious of what's happening around you, which is also a key to mindfulness.
"When you're being consciously aware throughout the day, you're very observant of everything that's happening around you and how people are feeling and then you're responding and reacting accordingly," Dandapani says.
He says there's no overnight method of learning how to be truly mindful, adding that quick fixes like meditation apps are just "patches". Nevertheless they are good starting points.
"Nobody tells you a systematic process of how to get there because everyone wants a quick-fix and no one wants to do the hard work," Dandapani says. "You need to make concentration a part of your daily life in order to create a sustainable mindfulness practice."