No doubt you have heard about mindfulness? It’s a truly life-changing practice once you master the basics. The aim is not to quieten the mind but to pay attention, observing the present and it’s non-judgmental. But what is it really and how can you make it work for you?
Mindfulness in a nutshell
When you enter a mindful state, you are aware of everything. It’s about developing awareness and not overly assessing everything you are or do. When self-critical thoughts come into play, make mental notes as you practice, but then, let these thoughts pass.
How to be mindful
You may be sitting in a café enjoying a warming cup of coffee and become acutely aware of the sensation of the liquid in your mouth. You feel the cup next to your lips and the pleasure when you taste and swallow the liquid. Then, you tune into the gentle sound of those around you, talking, movement and the clattering of cups.
The sounds may be slightly muted if you are reading or taking time to enjoy your coffee, but you become aware of it in a non-distracting way. Perhaps you become an observer of others, noticing gestures and mannerisms. This is an example of being mindful. It is about truly being in the moment.
You can tune into the moment whenever you wish. Instead of letting your mind run riot and multi-tasking and living in a distracted state, stop, think and then, focus. It doesn’t matter if you only manage it for a few minutes at first, think of it as the foundations for building a new way of living.
Pay attention when you clean your teeth, or when you eat your meal. Don’t just eat your food, taste it, let your taste buds truly experience each morsel. Make mealtimes precious. When you walk to work, notice in detail the route that you are walking. It doesn’t have to be a scenic walk to enjoy it.
Notice the irregular sloping rooftops, notice the vibrant greens of trees and shrubs, notice the expanse of sky and listen to birds singing. Feel each step you take. Pay attention to your breathing, feel your body respond to this motion. This is mindfulness.
Mindfulness as the new cure all?
People talk about mindfulness as if it is something new but, we have always had times when we are mindful. Think about when you have focused with intent on a project, an exam, or while participating in a favored hobby. Your attention is on the task at hand and you are not easily distracted. You are engaged throughout. This is a far better way to be. There’s nothing wrong with day-dreaming, it’s more about not living in a distracted state. So, mindfulness, although not new, brings amazing benefits when utilized.
Mindfulness and yoga and meditation
People often think that mindfulness is intrinsically connected to yoga and to the time spent on the yoga mat and it’s true to say that you are mindful (or should be) while you are performing the postures. It’s also inter-connected to meditation as you tune into the moment and perform the meditation that suits your needs at that time.
Mindfulness meditation is well-known and affords many benefits when practiced as part of a new mindful way of being. It helps you to be in the moment more easily and to remain there, offsetting concerns about the future or regrets or anxiety over the past. But you can be mindful at any time of the day without practicing meditation.
Bring attention to your posture
The human body is a complex design. But, it can work for you or against you. These days, so many people have poor posture caused often through sedentary jobs, but, you can use mindfulness to your advantage here and check your posture. Go on, do it now. How are you sitting or standing? Is your spine erect? Are your shoulders back? Is your neck drooping forward? Do you have aches and pains between your shoulder blades?
Does your lower back protest after you have been standing for a while? These are all indicators that your posture needs attention. Tune your attention in at key times through the day and do a quick body scan. You will be glad you did. Awareness of poor posture means you can make changes.
If the prospect of being more mindful appeals, make the decision to start right now. Think about what you are doing and focus your attention on it. When you feel your mind become distracted, gently bring it back and re-focus. This way you train your mind to respond. In the morning, perform a mindfulness meditation.
Do this the moment you wake up and before you rush into your usual morning tasks. Close your eyes and focus just on the breath. Notice the inhalation and the exhalation fully. Feel your lungs expand and deflate. Feel the air cool as it enters the nostrils and then, warm air being expelled. Then, when ready, let the breath become rhythmic and gentle.
Scan your body, starting from the tips of your toes all the way up to the head and face. Do this slowly and steadily. Keep your focus and search for any tension, any sensations of being uncomfortable, notice those areas that need to be stretched out after slumber.
There is no right or wrong way of feeling, mindfulness is about a state of being and living in the moment. You are engaging in a mindful way by performing this meditative body scan. It’s easy for the mind to become distracted. If it does, just gently bring it back and continue to focus.
Perform these meditations for a few minutes to start with and then increase. But this is just one example and you can meditate at any time of the day or night. You can also remain in the present for longer and longer each day, it’s your choice. The more mindful you are, the easier life becomes. It’s true. Make the decision to be a little mindful today. Start right now and in a matter of days, you will feel as if you have more time and be in control of your life.