mindful vs mindless

Having clarity on “mindful vs unmindful” can help a great deal in your daily practice. Especially when you first start the practice. How do I know if I am mindful, or if I am unmindful? What is the essence between the two in my daily life’s perspective?

The essence of being “mindful vs unmindul”

“Mindful” is a state of mind where all your attention is in the present moment. It comes with the smallest thing you do such as drinking tea, washing dishes, walking or eating, but it can shape your whole world view. Being mindful you keep the future or the past out of your focus. It’s a way of living and never-ending practices.

Unlike being mindful, being “unmindful” is a state of mind where you live in an automatic pilot. It includes doing things without being fully present: drinking a coffee while talking, cooking while your mind is busy scheduling your next meeting… In addition, being mindful also means you free yourself from the psychological time. You don’t run after the future or are completely torn by your past’s burden. Your focus is fully on the beauty of what is offered “now”.

There can be a few simple practices to help you focus on the present moment. However to move from a state of “unmindful” to “mindful”, you do need more fundamental changes in your mindset. Ask yourself these 5 questions today. See how they can bring changes in your mindful practices.

#1. Are you always “waiting”?

Do you wait? Apparently, you would say “yes”. Everybody waits. In a line at the supermarket or at the airport, in front of a meeting door or at the school entrance… But not only. You can wait for the next vacation time or the next job promotion, the next reunion with your partner… As human beings we seem to be perpetually in a state of “waiting”.

When we are in a “waiting state” we miss what is the essence of the present moment. I remember each year I waited desperately for the annual holiday. When the day came when I was finally at the vacation park it never felt a paradise as I imagined it. I was rather busy planning for the next activities before the holiday had ended. Life just seemed to be a vicious circle with a job and a holiday and I was never really fulfilled.

The day I stopped waiting for a holiday, I started to feel like being on holiday for the whole year round. It was so fulfilling just to sit right here right now, fully present with my coffee To be able to feel the cool breeze, and the freshness of the dewdrop. There was no longing for any vacation anymore.

Therefore, if you asked me what is the secret of being mindful vs unmindful, I would say: Stop waiting.

As Eckhart Tolle said… Next time, when someone said “I’m sorry for keeping you waiting”. You can reply: No, I wasn’t waiting. I was just there, enjoying”.

#2. Do you often relive the “past”?

The past and the future seem all real, even more real than the present. “After all, the past defines our identity, as well as our perception and our behaviour in the present. The objectives of the future define our actions in the present” I hear you saying.

But if you stop for a moment and look deeply, you will see that nothing can exist out of the present moment. Nothing is real except for this present moment. Take a moment right now and breathe. Can you tell me from where you are right now, can anything be produced in the past? No nothing can. From where you are right now can you do something in the future? No you can’t. Only the present moment exists and is real.

That is why, by living deeply in the present moment we can stop the “psychological time” which has dominated humanity since time immemorial. Reliving the past is among the most common thing to do of unmindful people. We often fall into the trap of reliving our emotions or our difficulties and regret so much about them.

To be mindful you can train yourself to be aware. Each time you relive your past think to yourself “In which time zone I am right now?” Ask yourself that question, and then shift immediately your focus back to the present. That is the most useful action you can do to be mindful.

#3. Do you think that the present is only a step?

If you think that the present is only a step for you to reach something else then you are definitely not yet mindful. Today you are a manager in your company. You go to work with the idea that all that you do now is to move to a more senior role.

Of course you can set your direction and have a vision of what you want to be. However many of us are so drawn to the future, to the point of seeing the present as only a step on the way. We therefore miss what is offered to us in the present moment.

The day you can enjoy being here and now your vision will be rolled out effortlessly. It is because your actions even the smallest ones, will be filled with a certain quality, care, and love. Remember, if you don’t pay all your attention to the results but simply to the action itself, the results will come by themselves. Your present is not anymore a step. It is just itself with all your enjoyment.

#4. Do you need someone to feel complete?

If you need someone to feel “complete” then you are not deeply in the present moment. Can we be in love deeply without feeling “in need”? Yes we can.

When we are deeply in the present moment we are first of all aware of our bodies. We know that our bodies come from the sun, the rain and the multitude of human, animal, and plant ancestors. You and the person you love are not separated, no more than you are not separated from anything that exists.

We can love without the “need” to be completed by someone. Being deeply in the present moment, the harmony that the physical connection creates will be of the utmost. It is not based on the need for completion but a profound presence.

In addition to the physical connection many of us search for someone else to cover our emotional needs. Being deeply present with your thoughts and feelings helps you to realize the “ego” behind what you want. Love is a deep connection and is not based on needs. It’s the realization of unity and of harmony in the ever-present” (Kusen, Kanshoji monastery). It is not the dependency on the other to satisfy our emotional security.

What is more, the state of “completion” will never be achieved if it comes from outside yourself. In a relationship many of us expect our partners to be there so that we can feel good. But there will come a certain moment that this can’t be a reality. We will then fall into a trap of suffering, emotional difficulty and lack of satisfaction.

Therefore, to be a mindful person ask yourself this: Am I in a relationship right now only because I’m in need of him or her for my emotional security? If you do then go back to your mindful practices and train yourself to stay deeply in the present moment. One day you’ll be ready for all true and fulfilling relationships.

#5. Can’t you accept your “inactivity”?

Is there anything that you “should do” that you don’t? Then move immediately and do it. If not then just accept completely your current “inactivity”, your laziness or your passivity if it is your choice. Feel good, enjoy and be deeply in the state of inactivity. If you go deeply and consciously there will be no ulterior conflict or resistance… Or negativity.

In the modern world, we have the tendency to lose ourselves in activities. We never stop running. There is little opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and feel our states of “being”. Only with acceptance can we return to our inner silence and connect to the source of our wisdom and knowledge.

“When we lose ourselves in activities we diminish our quality of being. We do ourselves a dis service. It’s important to preserve ourselves, to maintain our freshness and good humour, our joy, and compassion” (Thich Nhat Hanh).

Therefore, moving from “doing” to” being” is the secret of mindful living. Today train yourself to be able to accept your inactivity if you don’t decide to take action. Give yourself a “lazy day“, and practice more “being”.

Mindful vs unmindful, here are the secrets

In reality the essence of being “mindful vs unmindful” grounds more deeply in your mindset.

Here are the 5 questions that would help you bring back your mind to the present moment at any time:

  • Are you always “waiting”?
  • Do you often relive the “past”?
  • Do you think that the present is only a step?
  • Don’t you need someone to feel complete?
  • Can’t you accept your “inactivity”?

These apparently simple questions reflect a deep change in your mindset. It can shape your whole world view. Being mindful, all your attention is deeply in the present moment. You keep the future or the past out of your focus. You don’t miss the beauty of what the “now” offers. Practice today with me and see how it changes your world!

Read more:

Mindful parenting techniques – All you need to know

Disadvantages of mindfulness – Don’t miss these 6

Releasing jealousy – 7 best mindful tips


  • Giang Cao Ho My

    M.A., Founder

    Mindfulness Garden

    Like what you read? More from Giang on Mindfulness Garden Giang Cao Ho My is a Yogi, Meditation Practitioner, and Spiritual writer.  Join her Mindful Tribe and practice Mindful living today - Slow down. Feel better for less. Cultivate our presence in anything we do. Fulfilled from the inside and spread love.