What are the Three Pillars of Mindfulness?

Katharine Chestnut
8 min readJan 16, 2024

A Quick Guide to Enlightenment

Ah, mindfulness, that elusive state of being so many of us strive for. As you embark on your journey toward a more mindful existence, take a closer look at the three core components that form its foundation. These not only guide your practice but also help you harness the power of focused attention, open awareness, and kind intention in your daily lives.

Before you dive in, it’s worth mentioning that being mindful isn’t about perfecting your yoga poses or sipping green smoothies with a Zen-like calm (though those can certainly be part of the fun!). Instead, it’s about building an awareness and cultivating non-judgmental attention to the present moment. By embracing the pillars of mindfulness, you create a framework for understanding experiences, uncovering hidden insights, and ultimately, fostering a deeper connection with yourself and the world around you.

The Three Pillars of Mindfulness

When it comes to mindfulness, I’ve found that there are three essential components, that make all the difference: Paying Attention, Being Present, and Non-Judgment. Let’s dive into each of these and see how you can incorporate them into your life.

Paying Attention

Oh, how easy it is to get lost in your own thoughts! Thankfully, one of the main aspects of mindfulness is giving your undivided attention to the present moment. It’s about focusing on what’s happening right now, whether it’s the sound of your breath or the feeling of your feet on the ground. Here are some ways to practice paying attention:

  • Keep a “mindfulness bell”: Set an alarm every hour (or so) to remind you to pause and be present. I actually have four of these set on my own phone.
  • Counting breaths: Focus on your breath and count each inhale/exhale up to 10, then start over. Or use a guided meditation like this one.
  • Listen actively: When engaging with someone, actively listen and avoid interrupting or preparing a response in our heads. Deep listening is a skill that will never fail you.

Being Present

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be present (you know, like, right now). Letting go of the past and future thoughts or worries is vital to your mindfulness journey. It’s about being aware of surroundings and embracing the sensations you experience, without trying to change or control them. Some suggestions:

  • Observe sensations: Sit comfortably and take note of any physical sensations in your body.
  • Use all senses: While eating or cooking, focus on using taste, smell, sound, and touch.
  • Connect with nature: Go for a walk, appreciating the sights and sounds around us. I love listening to a walking meditation while I take a walking break.


Finally, practicing non-judgment is essential. You can often fall into the trap of labeling situations or emotions as “good” or “bad.” But guess what? It’s time to cut yourself some slack and approach everything with a kind, curious attitude. Try these steps:

  • Replace self-criticism: If you catch yourself being harsh, replace it with a compassionate thought.
  • Maintain curiosity: When facing challenging situations, approach them with an open, learning mindset.
  • Accept emotions: Permit yourself to feel and acknowledge your emotions without trying to suppress them.

By focusing on these three, you can keep your sanity and maybe even make you the life of the party (just kidding, but not really). You will notice the positive changes in your life!

Embarking on the Mindfulness Journey

Starting Small

When you first set out on your mindfulness journey, it’s important to start small. Just like when beginning any new practice or routine, you need to build a solid foundation. You can start by incorporating simple mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. For example, you might try taking a few deep breaths when waking up or deeply experiencing the taste and texture of your breakfast. These small steps can gradually lead to a more mindful lifestyle.

Humor and Mindfulness

One key aspect you may overlook is humor. Laughter is a powerful tool that helps maintain a lighthearted, playful mentality. Embracing your inner goofiness and finding humor in everyday situations can help you stay mindful and present without taking yourself too seriously.

Here are three quick tips:

  • Laugh at yourself: Being able to laugh at your mistakes can help you be more mindful and accepting.
  • Find humor in your surroundings: Keep an eye out for amusing situations, jokes, and general silliness in day-to-day life.
  • Share laughter with others: Share funny moments with friends, family, or even strangers, and revel in the shared experience of laughter.

Mindful Habits

Be sure make it a habit, something that becomes part of your daily routine. To do this, you can try incorporating intention, attention, and attitude — into every aspect of your day. Here are some examples:

  • Intention: Set a clear goal for each day to be more mindful, so you start with a focused mindset.
  • Attention: Dedicate specific times throughout the day to practice mindfulness exercises, and fully immerse yourself in the present moment.
  • Attitude: Approach our mindfulness practice with a sense of curiosity and playfulness.

By implementing these aspects of mindfulness into your daily habits, you can strengthen your mindfulness practice and bring a greater sense of peace and well-being into your life.

Wobbly Pillars: Mindfulness Challenges

Remember, it’s not always smooth sailing. At times, it may feel like your struggling to keep those pillars standing tall. Here’s a look at some of the challenges you might face while practicing mindfulness and how to overcome them.

Overcoming Distractions

Distractions are like quicksand that swallows up your mindful intentions. The moment you sit for meditation, suddenly you remember that laundry list of chores or that email you need to send. Your mind loves to play tricks on you!

But worry not, for every challenge comes with a solution. To outsmart those pesky distractions, let’s try the following:

  • Set aside a specific time and place: Creating a ritual around your mindfulness practice can help anchor you to the present moment.
  • Use a gentle reminder: Every time your attention strays, simply guide it back with a mental note, “thinking,” or a small physical movement, like tapping a finger.
  • Embrace the noise: Don’t resist those distracting thoughts, but rather acknowledge them and let them pass like clouds on a breezy day.

Resistance to Being Present

There are times that attempting to tame your mind and fully experience the present moment is like wrestling a giant, slippery eel. It wriggles away every time you think you’ve caught it. Your brain is addicted to rumination and daydreaming. You worry about the past, the future, yesterday’s dinner, and whether your plants need watering.

So, how do you tackle this resistance? Here are some ideas:

  • Show kindness to your jumpy mind: Instead of getting irritated or judging yourself, treat your wanderlust mind with compassion.
  • Use an anchor point: Focusing on the breath, a physical sensation, or a mantra can help you cultivate presence.
  • Remember, it’s a practice: Patience. Practice makes perfect, and your mindfulness muscles get stronger with repetition.

Take a deep breath, greet those challenges with a smile, and tip your hat to the mindful warrior you are becoming.

Get the support you need to grow your mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness in Daily Life

As someone who strives to improve your daily life, you may find that incorporating mindfulness into your routines can be quite transformative. I’ll walk you through a couple of areas where I’ve successfully practiced increased awareness: Mindful Eating and Mindful Communication.

Mindful Eating

Ah, food! It’s one of my favorite things, and yours too, I bet. The key to truly enjoying this culinary experience, however, is mindful eating. I like to think of each bite as a journey to savor, rather than gobbling my food down in haste.

First, take the time to really look at your meal, absorbing the visual feast that is your delectable creation. Smelling the aromas allows you to appreciate the tantalizing scents before you dive in (not literally, of course).

During the meal, make a conscious effort to chew slowly. It’s not a race! Plus, your stomach will thank you later for making digestion a little easier. Savor the flavors as they unfold, truly enjoying the masterpiece you’re consuming. And, let’s be honest, this practice has helped me avoid some embarrassing food-stains on my shirt too.

Mindful Communication

Communication can sometimes be a tangled web filled with misunderstandings and frustrated sighs. But fear not! I’m here to share how mindfulness can untangle those messy knots in your relationships with the simple act of mindful communication.

When engaging in conversation, make a point to listen — and I mean actively listen. By giving your full attention to the speaker (yes, even when you’re bursting to chime in), I’ve discovered how much richer conversations can be.

Additionally, taking a moment to pause and reflect on what’s been said before responding allows you to collect your thoughts and provide more meaningful responses. I’ve been told that this little act has made better friends, partners, siblings, and coworkers. Hurray!

Mindfulness in daily life can significantly improve-uh oh, I almost said “overall”! Scratch that, I’m sure you get the point. Enjoy employing mindfulness in your eating and communication experiences!

Frequently Asked Questions

Any relation to 3 musketeers?

While they do make quite the trio, the three pillars of mindfulness hold no relation to the famous “Three Musketeers.” However, much like the heroic swordsmen, these stand side by side in unity, ready to guide you on your mindfulness journey.

Can I get a fourth for fun?

Well, you might be tempted to add an additional pillar for the sake of variety, but the beauty of mindfulness lies in its simplicity. These three together form a complete foundation. While fun is always welcome, your mindfulness journey thrives on the harmony of this trio.

Mindfulness — friend or trend?

Mindfulness has gained popularity in recent years, but it’s safe to say that it’s more than just a passing trend. Rooted in ancient wisdom, mindfulness practices offer you tools to navigate your life with greater awareness and compassion. This friend has benefits, and your friendship with mindfulness is here to stay.

Does mindfulness have a sports team?

Well, while mindfulness does not have a dedicated sports team, I can say with confidence that practicing mindfulness can be quite beneficial for athletes. Whether you’re taking deep breaths during a yoga class or honing your focus before a big game, mindfulness might just be the unofficial mascot for any sports team out there!

Do you have thoughts about this post? Or questions?

Unlock the transformative power of mindfulness and meditation with The Mindful Life membership. Start your journey towards a more balanced, harmonious existence today. Learn more here →

Originally published at https://katharinechestnut.com on January 16, 2024.



Katharine Chestnut

From the world of marketing and sm biz, to self-care and wellness practices. She is committed to help others discover their wisdom. katharinechestnut.com