Mindfulness in Plain English

I am pleased to welcome David Fonsbo to my blog. David is a mindfulness teacher and author of the Learn Mindfulness Training Program.

I decided to call upon David’s wisdom after a recent conversation with a friend, who ended up saying to me, Yes Alfred, but what is mindfulness in plain English”?  And so I thought it would be great to have another teacher share an explanation with you.

Mindfulness In Plain English, By David Fonsbo…

One of the most fundamental things about the mind is that it is always distracted. The mind is always on a quest for more. More money. More freedom. More happiness… Our focus is always pointed at something. Something we are thinking, feeling or doing, or very likely something we need. The very first step in Mindfulness is to recognize that the mind is wandering from one place to another. All the time. The mind is always occupied trying to entertain itself with all kinds of distractions like thoughts and dreams etc. The mind is like a flashlight and we see what is in the light for a short moment and then we point the light at a new object for a second and then a third and a fourth etc…. This is the very foundation for stress.

This is a little two step Mindfulness Exercise that can be used to immerse and enhance the process of being Mindful.

Step one: Concentration

To assist the mind in being relaxed and more aware, it can be helpful to learn how to focus your mind at only one thing for a longer period of time. There are several ways to do this.

Monks and nuns who have been serious about their practice have used prayers and mantras for centuries. A few examples could be: Om Mani Padme Hung, Om Ma Hung, Kyrie Eleison, Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti, which are being recited in the mind (or verbally) over and over.

You can also simply place an object in front of you and try to focus your mind at it without thinking. Just look at it and be totally aware. And when you notice that you lost your focus… simply go back to focussing – still without thinking.

Concentrate on your breath. Feel the sensation when the air flows in and out your body. Notice what it does to your body or just focus on the fact that you are breathing.

You don’t have to use hours every day doing this. Pick something to focus your mind at and spend a couple of minutes trying to concentrate your mind at this one thing only. You will most likely notice that it is not that easy, but don’t worry. When you notice you lost focus just relax and return to the assignment.

Step Two: Let Everything Be As It Is, without Interfering.

We receive a lot of information through our senses and we tend to forget ourselves during the processing of all this information. So let everything go. Imagine you are living in a house with a front door and a backdoor. The doors are always open. ‘People’ come in through the front door and leave out the backdoor. Don’t invite them to tea! Let thoughts, feelings and sensations come and let them go without interfering.

We tend to invite thoughts to tea and involve ourselves in inner discussions, only to manifest: What do I think. What is my opinion. And we are really only trying to maintain our inner picture of “who I am”. We reject what we do not like and identify completely with what we do like. We tend to confuse our inner pictures of who we are with who we REALLY are! Who is it that creates these inner self images?

The turning point in mindfulness is to switch awareness from the things that enter the mind to include who or what is aware of what is going on in the mind. To be FULLY aware.

Meet every situation with an open mind. Don’t judge. Don’t expect. Don’t regret. Don’t analyze. Don’t reject what is. You can’t anyway. Mindfulness is total accept of what is no matter what it is. Not saying yes and not saying no. Let thoughts come and let them go.

The only thing you need to be who you really are is letting go of who you THINK you are.

Thought and emotion tends to pull you away from the present moment. This does not mean that you should not think and feel, but instead try to be Mindful while thinking and feeling. This kind of presence tends to clarify what is going on in the mind. It makes you able to look behind thoughts and feelings to uncover subconscious needs hidden in your Shadow.

There is nothing outside this moment anyway! The past does not exist anywhere else than in your mind and the future is just an expectation, a picture in your mind. Don’t contaminate the present moment by letting your ego try to change it!

In plain English, mindfulness is un-attachment to everything that goes on in the mind.


  1. Newbie says

    I read this post with interest as this subject is new to me. And I’m finding some of the concepts challenging. I enjoyed the post but I cannot understand this sentence, the first one: “The turning point in mindfulness is to switch awareness from the things that enter the mind to include who or what is aware of what is going on in the mind! To be FULLY aware!”
    Would appreciate a translation/explanation, please.

    • alfredjames says

      Hi Newbie. This was a guest post written by Mindfulness teacher David Fonsbo. My interpretation of this line is that when we are mindful we cultivate a true awareness of self; the person who is having these thoughts, perceptions and judgements. In a normal state we are aware that thoughts are entering the mind but unaware of their impact, and also unaware of the person being subjected their outcomes. It’s like switching from simply existing to being truly aware. I hope this helps. If you want a good introduction to the definition of mindfulness and how to become more mindful, check out my book series here.

  2. Naomi says

    Without getting too jargony, I think the term Newbie might be looking for is metacognitive awareness. Being aware of your thoughts and also being aware of the strategies you use to monitor thoughts (and how you think about your thoughts).

    • Alfred James says

      Great word! It might sound a little scary to someone new to mindfulness, but your definition sums up the subject most eloquently. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Jacqueline says

    I really like the idea of comparing the mind to a house with the front door and back door open for thoughts to go in and out without staying for tea!
    thanks for sharing.

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