Mindfulness meditation has been described as the process of intentionally focusing on the present moment, accepting and non-judgementally paying attention to the sensations, thoughts and emotions that arise.
The word 'mindfulness' derives from the Pali language word 'sati' which means awareness. In essence, developing our awareness is about knowing what we're doing, while we're doing it.
Mindfulness teacher Dr Mark Williams explains that in most meditation practices, there are two aspects: (i) concentration and (ii) wide awareness. The concentration aspect is where we calmly abide in the present moment by using an anchor point such as the breath, to which we return, time and time again, when the mind wanders. As Williams explains, this is not a "frowning effort" sort of concentration, but rather the use of an anchor to help keep us in the present moment, even for a short space of time.
The second aspect of a meditation practice, namely wide awareness is where we become aware of what it is that drags the mind away from its anchor point. So we can start to notice how the mind works and where the mind travels to. From these two aspects, we can gain both an ability to focus and insight into how our minds work. Both abilities can help us to have a healthier relationship with our thoughts and make better decisions during the day.