In order to live life mindfully and develop self-awareness, there are three main skills you should hone or work on developing. Those are:

  • Focused Attention
  • Open Monitoring
  • Acceptance

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3 Fundamental Skills of Mindfulness

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Focused Attention

Think of focused attention as paying attention to something or someone on purpose. Doing so with intention, to be fully aware of what that something or someone is doing in the present moment.

Sometimes we get distracted by any little thing, or life in general, and our minds get a little lost. Focused attention is a skill that will help you incorporate more mindfulness into your daily life.

You may know you’re eating, but your mind might thinking about hundreds of different things. Watching TV, talking on the phone, whatever it is – but you’re not really, really aware of what’s happening. 

Who doesn’t love food? But sometimes when you’re eating, your mind isn’t present. If your mind isn’t present, you can’t fully enjoy the process.

This is different than eating mindfully, with focused attention. When you eat mindfully, you notice everything; flavors, sensations, textures – so when your mind wanders, bring your attention back to eating so you can truly enjoy whatever deliciousness you’re snacking on. 

Developing focused attention doesn’t have to be complicated. Being fully aware of single breath can bring you into a state of concentration.. We take somewhere between 8-10 million breaths a year, so we have plenty of opportunities!

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Open Monitoring

Unlike focused attention, where you’re honing your concentration on something or someone, open monitoring involves taking it all in. You can think of focused attention as tunnel vision, whereas open monitoring could be compared to using a camera with a wide angle lens.

When we practice open monitoring, our thoughts tune in to what we’re sensing in the present moment, rather than re-living the past or imagining the future. It’s about paying attention to the NOW, which is the one moment we actually have, the one moment we’re living in. 

Without a doubt, one of the most important reasons to practice open monitoring is because when you’re stuck in a state of mindlessness – that is, lost in thoughts of the past or future – you’re literally letting life pass you by.

Live in the moment and truly experience life by noticing what is going on right now.

It doesn’t mean we should forbid ourselves from thinking about the past or future, but when we do, we do so mindfully. Meaning, we’re aware that right now we’re thinking about the past or future. 

There’s a higher level of awareness that we reach when we’re choosing consciously to do something. Because the alternative is living in that subconscious space where our mind is taking over and we live on auto-pilot.

Woman standing atop Los Bunkers del Carmel in Barcelona, facing the city.


Acceptance (as it applies to mindfulness) is when we observe whatever thoughts and emotions arise in us without judging them or labeling them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  We stop thinking they’re right or wrong.

We don’t beat ourselves up when we catch ourselves thinking about things we don’t want think about.  Acceptance of what the conditions of life are, as well as acceptance of other people.

Woman smiling at the camera at the Stairway to Heaven in Porto, Portugal with the Dom Luis bridge in the background.

Mindfulness is learning how to accept what is. Learning how to stop living in resistance.  Seeing things as they are without judging means you can make peace with them and choose healthy ways of responding instead of immediately reacting as a result of whatever emotions you may be feeling.

You become fully aware of yourself, and with that higher level awareness you’ll feel more confident. You’ll feel more confident knowing you have the power that you can direct own life, knowing that you’ve harnessed more compassion for yourself.

You’ll no longer beat yourself up for negative thoughts or feelings you may have. You get to learn from those thoughts and feelings and move forward. 

Your mind is a little puppy that doesn’t always listen, she makes messes and chews your shoes. At least, that’s what mine does. You’ll have same loving-kindness for yourself as you teach your mind how to master itself, and deliberately create the reality that it wants.

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Mindfulness & Meditation