What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation that was little known in the West until recently.
A typical meditation consists of focusing your full attention on your breath as it flows in and out of your body. Focusing on each breath in this way allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind and, little by little, become more at peace with them. You come to realise that thoughts come and go of their own accord; that you are not your thoughts.
You can watch as they appear in your mind, seemingly from thin air, and watch again as they disappear, like a soap bubble bursting. You come to the profound understanding that thoughts and feelings (including negative ones) are transient. They come and they go, and ultimately, you have a choice about whether to act on them or not.
Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself.
When unhappiness or stress hover overhead, rather than taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, and to observe them with friendly curiosity as they drift past. In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral. It begins the process of putting you back in control of your life.
Over time, mindfulness brings about long-term changes in mood and levels of happiness and well-being. Scientific studies have shown that mindfulness not only prevents depression, but that it also positively affects the brain patterns underlying day-to-day anxiety, stress, depression and irritability so that when they arise, they dissolve away again more easily. Other studies have shown that people who meditate, see their doctors less often and spend fewer days in hospital. Memory improves, creativity increases and reaction times become faster (see What can mindfulness do for you?).
Despite these proven benefits, however, many people are still a little wary when they hear the word ‘meditation’. So before we proceed, it might be helpful to dispel some myths:
- Meditation is not a religion. Mindfulness is simply a method of mental training.
Many people who practise meditation are themselves religious, but then again, many atheists and agnostics are keen on meditating too.
- You don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor (like the pictures you may have seen in magazines or on TV), but you can if you want to. Most people who come to our classes sit on chairs to meditate, but you can also practise bringing mindful awareness to whatever you are doing, on the bus, train or while walking to work. You can meditate more or less anywhere.
- Mindfulness practice does not take a lot of time, although some patience and persistence are required. Many people soon find that meditation liberates them from the pressures of time, so they have more of it to spend on other things.
- Meditation is not complicated. Nor is it about ‘success’ or ‘failure’. Even when meditation feels difficult, you’ll have learned something valuable about the workings of the mind and thus have benefited psychologically.
- It will not deaden your mind or prevent you from striving towards important career or lifestyle goals; nor will it trick you into falsely adopting a Pollyanna attitude to life.
Meditation is not about accepting the unacceptable. It is about seeing the world with greater clarity so that you can take wiser and more considered action to change those things which need to be changed. Meditation helps cultivate a deep and compassion- ate awareness that allows you to assess your goals and find the optimum path towards realising your deepest values.
Start Practising Today!
Mindfulness will bring many benefits into your life, that many that i cant list them all but here are some of the key benefits. Reduces stress and anxiety, increases sense of awareness, increases intuition and mental clarity, better health and relationships.
The most difficult part about being mindful is remembering to do it! Allocate a specific time each day, preferably in the morning and spend just 5-10 minutes concentrating on your breath. At first this might seem slightly difficult or uncomfortable but keep at it. As the weeks pass you will find it easier to sit at peace with your thoughts. Get something to remind you to focus on your breath throughout the day. For me i use a small unique rock which i keep in my pocket at all times. Every time i put my hand in my pocket i am reminded to centre myself and focus on my breathing. Even if its only for a minute each time, if you can bring yourself to have a minute of mindfulness 5-10 times throughout the day it will bring an abundance of benefits to your life which you will start seeing immediately.
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