Just about every magazine article on mindfulness will say that it’s about being in the present moment. But if realizing the benefits of mindfulness was simply about paying attention to our present-moment experience, then everything would be easy. You can almost hear the sceptical reader saying, “Well I already do that, so what’s the point?”
For a start, there’s our deeply embedded habit of our attention being disconnected from what we are doing by unintentional thoughts. Imagine that a baby is born, and the doctor says to the mother, “Congratulations, your baby is healthy in every way. There’s just one thing, for half of every day of his waking life his attention will be distracted in automatic thoughts, away from what’s he’s doing. Although we still don’t really understand why, it’s nothing to worry about, as most people don’t even notice that this happens to them.”
When we practice mindfulness, we develop the awareness to notice, and the attention skills to disengage from our wandering mind, when it’s not useful. When we notice our mind wandering, a simple way to return to the present is to bring our attention and awareness to our body and senses. Like the phrase “come to your senses”, our body and senses are always in the present moment.