Mindfulness is an incredible resource with extensive potential for all who try it. But how does it work and what can it do for you? It’s far more than a buzzword or the latest gimmick. Regular practice can help you to make sense of the world around you and to embrace every single moment.
The nuts and bolts of mindfulness
Mindfulness is not new. It was developed in ancient times and has grown in popularity reaching the Western world in recent years. The emphasis is on awareness, attention and remembering. When you are mindful, you pay attention to the present moment and you do so in an open way, you are non-judgmental, and learn to react in a more positive way to difficult situations.
Although we tend to think of mindfulness as being all about the mind, it is also interconnected with the heart as well. So, when you practice, you open yourself to kindness, to warmth, friendliness and to compassion. This means being compassionate to self as well as to others.
Many people think that mindfulness is all about meditation and although it is an intrinsic part of it, it is not the be all and end all of mindfulness. When you meditate generally, you pay attention to whatever it is you’ve decided to do. To clarify, this means you focus on any aspect that you see fit. You do not become distracted by external triggers although you may be aware of them. If you practice mindfulness meditation, you may decide to tune into your senses, you may scan the body for tension, you may become aware of thoughts or emotions and you may focus just on the breath. It may be that you use mindfulness meditation to tune into an alternate aspect but one that is predominant at that point.
Thinking is instinctive. You don’t have to try to think, it happens naturally and, it’s estimated that we have up to 60,000 thoughts a day. That’s a great many thoughts especially if they are not always positive in nature. Mindfulness helps you to clear space between your thoughts and to develop awareness of them. Far from popular belief, mindfulness is not designed to stop your thoughts, but to clear your mind. There is a difference.
The reality of mindfulness
Those who haven’t practiced mindfulness often worry that by tuning into the present, it will intensify the cold reality of life and this may be a life that is presently not happy. Many people prefer escapism within their meditations and actually, there is a place for it all. But, when you are being mindful, you just understand your situation more, you see when you are struggling, you see when you are being self-critical, and you see when you are happy and feel good about yourself. It is important within mindfulness that you do not become judgmental about your situation. It’s just tapping into reality but not being harsh with yourself because life may not be quite as you want. Otherwise, you would become frustrated with yourself. Be kind, be compassionate.
Mindfulness and restlessness
If you are a restless and ‘always on the go’ person, you may feel mindfulness is not for you because your life is too busy, and it may seem impossible that you would sit still long enough to remain in the present moment. It’s worth noting that you can benefit greatly from it even if you are busy. It doesn’t matter if you are sitting still or on the go, you can still be mindful.
Mindfulness can help to rewire your brain and it does this surprisingly quickly providing you commit to a practice. You tune into this feeling of being restless, but you do not react to it. In fact, these feelings may well start to decrease. This doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of time either, because if you practice mindfulness on a regular basis, perhaps, it fluctuates, increases and decreases. Few things remain as a constant. As you begin to meditate and practice mindfulness, you find that feelings of restlessness are replaced and instead, you are likely to feel calmer and to tap into a sense of inner peace.
Mindfulness intensifies reality
There is always a focus within mindfulness on positive thinking. Many people have found, with awareness, that their thoughts were far from positive and as a result, mindfulness intensified how they felt. So, this means, there was a reluctance to delve too deeply into these thoughts and resulting feelings or to make them a stronger reality. But, mindfulness helps to retrain your mind so that you think more positively not just about yourself but about others too and, this creates a new awareness about your own personal situation.
With awareness comes the realization as to the damage that being self-critical can do. Many people are judgmental or, self-critical and, when you worry constantly about your place in the world or, whether you can achieve all that you want in life, your thoughts can turn against you.
Awareness of thought patterns
When you practice mindfulness regularly, you become aware of your thought patterns and this includes, both negative and positive thoughts. Although coming face-to-face with negative thoughts can be harrowing, mindfulness helps you to recognize these thoughts and to change them, so they become more positive. This isn’t a case of lying to yourself, but to help you recognize that you are unfairly judging yourself. It helps you to recognize your own reactions. In fact, in time, it’s possible to view any situation differently. This isn’t a battle of positive thoughts versus negative thoughts. It is more about understanding why darker or unpleasant thoughts occur and you could consider that they are holding you back in life. When you practice mindfulness, you are in the unique position of being able to take a step back and view your thoughts with some clarity.
Just remember however, thoughts are not a reality. You can observe them, learn from them, take a step back from them and you can most definitely avoid reacting to them. This way you can feel much more in control and certainly, become less stressed
The reality is not what it should be
Mindfulness enables you to understand what’s going on in your mind and all that is happening around you. You tune into the present, you develop awareness and an intuitive link to the mind and body and experience the day as it really is. For some people, there is a sense of nervousness when doing this and that’s okay. If you are unhappy in your day-to-day life, you may believe that you do not wish to immerse yourself fully in the present, but, surprisingly, this may be exactly what you need to do. This way, with renewed clarity, you perceive the situations and your environment in a truer sense and this is useful for future progression although the focus is on the now.
Using mindful techniques, you will be able to establish what is wrong with your life and why you feel dissatisfied. This is not a journey into self-pity, but more a journey of self-discovery. Often when we feel stressed and under pressure or overwhelmed in life, we feel as if we have lost control. We take our hands off the steering wheel of life and meander aimlessly swept up by the currents of events. When you practice mindfulness, you can regain control of the steering wheel and you make your own choices and choose your own directions. That’s empowering.
For the good and the bad
There’s no doubt that mindfulness techniques can be used to help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. It can also help offset fluctuating moods or even depression. It is useful for clearing the mind and to develop greater self-awareness and self-compassion. But mindfulness isn’t just for those difficult times in life, mindfulness helps you to increase discipline of the mind. You can turn to mindfulness as a resource to rely on. Think of it as an inner reserve to help you when you need it. Once you start to practice it, you will understand the multitude of benefits that can be gained, and this is encouraging. It is so important to keep your progression strong and to not stop once your life is on track. Mindfulness should remain in the day to day. The more you tap into it, the more it becomes an integral part of your life.
It can be difficult to ascertain exactly what it is and what it will mean to you. Note that it is far from being a technique, although, there are techniques within this system. It is far from being a goal-setting exercise, but, more about awareness of internal and external experiences. In mindfulness, it does not matter what the experiences are, good or bad, they must be lived.
Mindfulness is just meditation?
While mindfulness and meditation are inextricably linked, the two are also separate. You can be mindful without meditating and you can meditate without practicing mindfulness. Meditation is a useful component of mindfulness as a whole. It is encouraged that you meditate during your practice because it helps to create space between your thoughts and provides you with a way to clear you mind. It also centers you which is so useful when you are under pressure.
Regular practice helps you to identify tension within your body and you can use mindfulness to help relax tense muscles and once you have done so, you will feel so much better in yourself. Tension can create a stranglehold on life and once you are free from it, you can cope with life’s ups and downs more readily. You steer your life accordingly but, when mindful, you can use it in ways that are right for you.
There are no hard and fast rules. Mindfulness is more about tuning into your life and truly experiencing it rather than romping through it at great pace. If you think about meditation, you need to consider that you experience life on a moment to moment basis, so it is your intent that is important when it comes to meditation. It can certainly help release any deeply-rooted emotions that may be trapped within you. The subconscious mind works very hard at protecting you and so often deeply -buried emotions can create problems without your being aware of them. As you start to meditate, these emotions may rise to the surface and although, you may find this difficult initially, it’s a positive element of this practice as it helps you to deal with them and to let them go.
Mindfulness as therapy
While mindfulness can cause the manifestation of emotional blocks or past traumas, it is not a self-therapy. It will however, support the healing process. When you practice, you nurture yourself, you recognize the transitions that are occurring, and you view them without judgment. As you progress, mindfulness boosts your immune system, helping to reduce blood pressure and it aids the stress response. If you are seeking counselling to help with any emotional difficulties, practice mindfulness alongside it as this will help.
Mindfulness has become so popular. It is well-respected and many doctors refer their patients to a mindfulness-based stress reduction course. This is because they are aware that it gives people the chance to be more proactive when looking after themselves. This is through generating basic awareness and learning how to develop a greater resistance to stress. If, as part of your mindfulness practice, you start to experience deep emotional fluctuations or start to recall painful memories, don’t stop. Explore them, even if they are difficult, just seek professional advice if you need it. You will feel better thereafter.
Mindfulness is simplistic
If we look at the nuts and bolts of mindfulness, we know that it is about turning the attention to the present. In this respect, mindfulness is simplistic. Perhaps the most difficult part of mindfulness is practicing regularly. Being mindful is a very efficient way of living. You may feel as if life has become easier and yet you are doing less than before. However, you will certainly be gaining more. Think about it, if you live in a distracted state, you will not achieve as much. When you tune your thoughts into the present, you experience all that you are doing. Forget multi-tasking, focus on one thing at a time and do it well. Do it the mindful way.
Mindfulness is an extraordinary resource. You will have greater inner peace, respite from stress, increased conscious awareness and much more control in life. It’s the resource that keeps on giving. You just need to practice it.