Being Mindful is a deliberate activity.
It means paying attention to something in a particular way - typically described as being open, curious, non-judgemental or accepting.
Being Mindful is the difference between gulping a glass of wine and being at a wine-tasting where you are encouraged to use more than one sense to notice, to appreciate the full complexity of the wine. When you say ‘hang on, let’s just stop and enjoy this moment’ - you are encouraging a more Mindful approach.
Through a combination of routines and habitual responses, it’s all too easy to spend our day not noticing things - the food we eat, the way we go about things, the people around us, what we think and feel about things.
Many pilots will practice a form of mindfulness before a Sim check, before they give or hear difficult feedback or before giving the welcome on board PA. It's in these moments that you pay much more attention to what's right in front of you - including your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. You might say that mindfulness is another version of situational awareness - and in this context, we're encouraging you to think about it to increase your internal situational awareness.
How do you do it?
Mindfulness does not require anything other than mental effort. It’s a simple idea but don't be surprised if you struggle at first. In this context, practice makes better - not perfect. The first step is about cleaning the mind, often using a few slow, deep breaths to help. Then, the key things are to:
Be in the present moment
Don’t judge what you notice, just notice it
Experience what it feels like to be open, curious and accepting
If your mind wanders (and it will!) just notice this and gently guide it back in
You can be mindful for a few seconds or as long as you wish. You can be mindful about anything you want to experience at a deeper, richer level. It is possible, for example, to become more mindful of the thoughts that you generate. Accepting that you generate your own thoughts opens them up to analysis - are you thinking descriptive or evaluative thoughts for example.
Where can I find out more?
The Oxford Mindfulness Centre would be a good place to start - though an internet search will generate plenty more.
Please bear in mind that Mindfulness has its origins in Eastern contemplative traditions - and consequently some books or websites might seem off putting at first if this isn't your own preference. You do not need to subscribe to any religious or philosophical belief to enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.
Mindfulness. Many pilots do this anyway without using the label for it. It's a simple enough idea and is becoming increasingly respected.