What is mindfulness? Being ‘mindful’ means being able to be in the present moment – being aware – from a distance and observe what we are thinking, feeling and doing with no judgment whatsoever involved – in any given moment.
How do we ‘get to mindfulness?’ We can use meditation where we begin by sitting quietly and focusing on our breath or we could use a mantra that we repeat quietly to ourselves. Any thoughts that we are aware of we simply ‘notice’ and let them ‘be’. We don’t change them. By practising this we become more aware of our feelings in that moment. We are aware of when a thought may take us into ‘worrying’ and we can let it go.
We can – with practice take mindfulness to another level where it not only helps us to be ‘in the moment’ and allows us to live life more fully but we can live in a ‘state of perpetual mindfulness’. Being mindful helps us to be appreciative for everything we have and to most importantly gain self awareness, inner peace and calm as well as compassion for ourselves and for others. And for me it allows me to have that gap of a couple of seconds when it’s like I’m in a ‘void’ and I realise I have a choice as to how I respond in a certain circumstance.
Next I would like to cover the pluses of being mindful on a number of levels. Firstly medically it has been proven by the research done by Sara Lazar, a researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, that through the practice of mindfulness meditation the brain becomes thicker. It has been shown by her and also others in the science and medical fields, that when we begin to change our thoughts and habits the brain will develop new pathways. Wow! So we can change these pathways and the brain’s impulses simply through intention and mindful focus. This opens up a huge question – can meditation help eliminate such things as addictions or even things we can’t even dream of?
Secondly a few of the other more general benefits of mindfulness are:
* It helps still an over-active mind.
* Our ability to focus improves.
* We are able to ‘respond’ rather than ‘react’ in circumstances.
* We have a clearer view of situations.
* It helps us to stay out of worrying and….
* Assists us in being more relaxed.
* Mindfulness helps us to be aware of habits that may not serve us and with awareness we can change them.
I’m going to deal with a question people may be asking reading this article. What is the difference between meditation and mindfulness? From my view point they overlap, work together/help each other and are very close to being the same thing. I feel also that the latter word has become more the ‘in thing’ with meditation maybe not being ‘so trendy’ and acceptable these days. This isn’t meant as a judgment simply an observation. I will write more on this in ‘Is Meditation and mindfulness the same thing?’ in Articles so those reading can make their comments in the blog regarding how they feel about this.
Finally what are some of the ways we can become ‘mindful’ other than by ‘meditating?’ There are a few suggestions which are:
* We could start by ‘setting up the day’ before we get out of bed by making an intent as to how we would like to experience the next 24 hours i.e. maybe full of fun, joy, balance, peace and harmony? Or something else?
* We could use everyday things such as washing up or sweeping leaves in the garden (or as in the picture steering a boat) as a way to practice mindfulness and focus on what we are doing. If our mind wanders – with no judgment simply bring it back to what we are doing.
* When we are eating we could remember to savour the food. Be aware of what we are eating and drinking.
* Doing one thing at a time and staying out of ‘multi-tasking’ will help with mindfulness.
* Practise mindfulness (be in the present moment) whilst waiting in a queue – at the bank or elsewhere.
* Use mindfulness and breathing when stuck in traffic and let go of any feelings of frustration.
* Make meditation – yes meditation part of your daily habit.
* I use mindfulness before going to sleep at night by in my head, going over all the things that have occurred during that day that I appreciate.
“Mindfulness is simply being aware of what is happening right now without wishing it were different;
enjoying the pleasant without holding on when it changes (which it will);
being with the unpleasant without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).”