Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist tradition and basically its definition is Awareness.
"Well, I'm awake, therefore I am aware", I hear you say... however this type of mindful awareness is unlike normal waking awareness, it's a deeper level of awareness that is based on four Buddhist principles of:
mindfulness of the body (kaya)
mindfulness of feelings or sensations (vedanā)
mindfulness of mind or consciousness (citta)
mindfulness of universal law and order (dhammās)
In order to practise mindfulness, you need to focus your awareness on the present moment with a childlike curiosity, this requires self discipline in the form of concentration and patience and most importantly you will need to approach the practice with non-attachment or an objective mind (growth mindset).
Here's an exercise to give you an experience of mindfulness -
Find something to eat - anything at all.
Eat the food very slowly and deliberately
Use your five senses to eat the food.
Experience the food
What does it taste, sound, feel, smell and look like?
Use your concentration to focus on each sense one at a time.
Maintain self discipline
Concentrate only on the act of eating in this moment.
If your mind gets distracted, bring your attention back to the food.
Open (objective) mind
What insights did this experience give you?
This simple exercise brings your awareness into the present moment.
You are experiencing a state of Mindfulness.
what is the importance of Mindfulness?
The Buddhist tradition says that the practise of mindfulness alleviates suffering,
"In order to be able to choose non-suffering rather than suffering—to be able to think, speak, and act in such a manner that does not cause suffering for ourselves or others".
"Mindfulness practice [sati] as a skilful means enables us to go beneath the surface level of our moment-to-moment life experiences, which are clouded with emotions and habitual thinking, and allows us to see the truth of what is happening." 
Mindfulness allows us to have a full human experience of the world.
Recent medical and psychological studies have found a number of benefits to the body and mind as a result of Mindfulness practices. see references for links to each study 
Better sleep quality
Reduction in stress levels
Improved cognition and attention
Pain management with MSBR (Mindfulness-based stress reduction)
Preventing depression relapse using MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy)
Increase of grey matter density in the brain
The result can be quite amazing as you may have discovered from practicing "Mindful Eating". We stop multi-tasking and slow down a little. We relax slightly and tension is released from our muscles. Our child-like curiosity allows us to explore in a way that can spark joy and new sensations.
We are able to learn about ourselves and the world around us from being of the world rather than being taught about it. Learning about the world in this way is felt in the body and processed in the mind, converting knowledge into wisdom.
You may be able to acquire knowledge through learning from a third party, such as a book or a teacher. However you will never really know the smell of Michelangelo's Sistine chapel unless you walk into the space itself.
Your experience of the Sistine chapel may change your opinion of Michelangelo's work. Standing directly under the work and craning your neck to experience the artwork from below, is a very different experience to turning the pages of a book.
Personal experience of mindfulness has taught me that we snap out of autopilot, it's like a circuit breaker, re-setting habitual thinking and behaving and somehow synchronizes the mind and body on the same focal point.
So let's go deeper now; why is snapping ourselves out of autopilot important?
After-all autopilot is very useful for basic daily tasks, so we needn't give much thought to performing the many individual steps required to put on a pair of shoes.
Coming off autopilot (acting from the subconscious mind) and entering a state of Mindfulness (acting from the conscious mind) allows us to elevate our self-awareness meaning we can observe our own life; our thoughts, feelings, behaviours, relationships, interactions and reactions from a "higher" perspective.
To objectively observe any given situation means we are not drawn in and triggered by the situation. In doing so, we don't internalise emotions, become part of the drama, stress over, ruminate, fantasize over or hold onto grudges and this allows us to let go of the situation quickly and move on. In Buddhism this is referred to as Non-Attachment.
So, if a friend starts arguing with you and you feel yourself getting upset or triggered by the situation, mindfulness allows you to move to a higher perspective and find out what is really behind the attack - possibly finding compassion for your friend. You can control your emotions and give yourself space to reflect before responding so to de-escalate the situation and let it go with ease.
Mindfulness gives us tremendous control and power over our own lives, as we have a mastery of our emotions (Emotional Intelligence).
We can see insights and options that we couldn't see before, this provides us with greater choice, so we feel less powerless and hopeless.
By focusing our attention on one task at a time, we can quieten the mind and therefore create space in the mind for deeper pondering of the universe (Dhammas)
We can see the cause of our suffering and how we played a part in it. We can see multiple sides to any story, we can empathize and have greater compassion for others.
Eventually, we move into a another paradigm called the "Witness" where our awareness is directed inwards, towards the self and
with self awareness, we can change.
1. Satipaṭṭhāna is the establishment or arousing of mindfulness, as part of the Buddhist practices leading to detachment and liberation.
The Buddhist review, by Phillip Moffitt July 12, 2017
3. Psych Central: 10 Surprising Health Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation,
Medically reviewed by Scientific Advisory Board, by Suzanne Kane on July 5, 2018
Article has links to each study conducted.
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