Mindfulness - is it for you?
When you hear the word ‘mindfulness’, what comes to mind? Are you one of those who believe it be mumbo jumbo and airy fairy? Or are you curious to know more?
For myself, and others I have met, who have studied and practice mindfulness, it can be a way of living and experiencing life in full colour with acceptance and compassion.
Mindfulness is to be in contact with ourselves and with the present moment in a non-judgemental and accepting way.
To be truly in touch with where we are, we need to pause – to fully experience the moment without wishing or thinking ourselves elsewhere. And in that moment to connect with our innermost self, to become aware of our physical sensations, our thoughts and feelings, and be able to acknowledge them with kindness and curiosity.
Without the pause, we can continue ‘blindly’, our mind and body disconnected and in separate time zones; never actually realising our full potential, or being completely aware of the sights and sounds around us.
What we do in each moment of our lives influences what happens in the next moment, and the one after that, so if we are not aware of where are in life or what is guiding us – how will we know where we are going and whether it is where we truly want to be.
How often have you driven somewhere and arrived without remembering exactly how you got there, or eaten a meal without tasting what was on your plate? When we are doing things that are ‘automatic’ and requiring minimum conscious effort, we find our minds wandering – planning what we will do when we get home or to the office, making a mental list of jobs etc. This is our ‘autopilot’ that turns our thoughts inward away from the present moment.
A perpetual reduced awareness of the present moment can lead to other problems too. Because our automatic thoughts and actions are driven by our unconscious fears and insecurities, left unchecked and out of awareness, we can find ourselves losing touch with ourselves and our values, unable to redirect our energies to new paths.
Like all new patterns of behaviour, mindfulness needs to be practised daily for it to become established. This does not necessarily entail prolonged periods of meditation, although research has shown that 20 minutes’ daily meditation can lead to positive mental changes.
You can begin to establish changes with these simple tasks:
- When you sit down to eat, chew each mouthful slowly, tasting each separate flavour on the plate. You may find you learn more about the foods you enjoy and those you dislike.
- When you arrive at the office, before you get of the car, or go in through the door – pause, listen to the sounds around you, pay attention to your breath by breathing in and out slowly five times. Just by connecting to our breath we can become aware of our physical sensations and reduce anxieties and stress levels.
- Go for a walk in a park or garden, walk slowly, placing each foot mindfully. Notice what sounds you hear, the colour of the sky, the feel of the air and breathe slowly and deeply.
- Notice how you feel after each exercise, without judgement or bias, just with curiosity.