How can mindfulness help the constant chatter in our heads?
Mindfulness means “the awareness of the present moment”, to be in the here and now, to let go of the constant chatter and natter of the mind.
Why do we need to let go of the chatter?
Normally the constant narrative in our mind takes us to either past or future stories. Our past thoughts can make us re-live events which we feel we cannot let go of. This can make us feel stuck which can bring frustration and depression. Our future thoughts make us feel out of control – no control over the “what ifs” – and this can make us feel anxious and stressed.
When we start to understand that all that truly exists is the present moment, we observe how our mind takes us to these past or future stories. Only then are we able to ask ourselves, “how true or helpful are these thoughts?”
Learning to become mindful is unlearning from all those past or future stories which bring negative feelings or negative conditionings. These conditionings are beliefs which we create from our past experiences, we need to ask ourselves how helpful these beliefs are in the present moment, if not we will react without awareness.
So, what do we mean by “being aware?”
Awareness happens when we start observing our thoughts, this can only happen when we are in the present moment, when we are mindful. It helps us to understand and observe what we feel and where that emotion is coming up from. For example, if a partner cancels an arrangement with us at the last minute, even if it is for a valid reason, but we still feel a sense of rejection or abandonment we need to stay present and observe that emotion. This could be a feeling from childhood – parents getting divorced, friendship rejection, school etc. We realise this is a past emotion which triggers anything that feels similar to that moment.
It is for us to understand and realise that we are carrying a past emotion and repeating an emotional pattern, this is when we “become aware.” We then ask ourselves, is this emotion true at this moment? The awareness helps us to understand that there is a choice, I can either keep holding onto this past feeling or I can let it go.
So, how do we practice mindfulness?
Being mindful requires noticing what is happening while it is happening, we can start doing this by using all five senses:
- Hearing - Close your eyes and listen to the sounds in the environment. Notice what you hear without labelling.
- Sight - Open your eyes and observe, softly. Feel what you see, try not to identify.
- Touch - Close your eyes and touch, feel the sensation before identifying the object.
- Smell - Close your eyes and smell, notice the scent and feel.
- Taste - Notice the taste of what you are eating without labelling what it is.
When we start focusing on each sense our mind has nowhere else to go but to feel those sensations.
The breath is an essential exercise for bringing us to the present moment. When we use our mind to focus on our breath, “in through the nose, hold, out through the nose” our mind focuses on this action. With each rhythmic breath, the oxygen starts to create a calming sensation in our body. And even if the mind wanders we have already created space between mind and body which helps us to become the observer of our thoughts.
By being mindful we grow the awareness within us and choose whether we want to carry on holding onto these emotions. We begin to truly understand that our existence lies in the present moment.