A Mindful Moment
Lots of us get caught up in the rat race of doing. There is not enough hours in the day to get the list done, in addition the lists seems to never end and new tasks get added quicker than we take them off. Take Ann, who I saw a number of weeks ago she is filling her time with busyness. Ann will have a richer life and a deeper connection with herself, her children and her friends if she makes space for simply being in the moment. Does Ann remind you of anybody?
Is your head full of lists? How do you divide your time between ‘doing’ and ‘being’? Often in our adult lives we spend too much time in the past and too much time in the future, leaving too little time for the present. The truth is that when you live in the present, rather than regretting the past or worrying about the future, you are more at ease.
Mindfulness helps us shift from human being to human doing. The reason I wrote about mindfulness in my book – Becoming Your Real Self is that there is growing evidence for the use of mindfulness in many areas; stress reduction, chronic pain, anxiety, treating depression and more significantly in preventing depression relapse. However we do not need an ‘issue’ to get the benefits of mindfulness.
No, mindfulness can help keep us mentally fit, resilient and needs to be embedded into our school curriculums, so that we are moving to teaching life lessons for life. Let’s start at the beginning Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your awareness and attention into the present moment.
When mindful, you work from the standpoint of compassion, curiosity and acceptance towards yourself and your experiences. Mindfulness offers many ways to deepen your awareness, insights that can anchor you in the present and help you to keep things in perspective.
Mindfulness finds its roots in the meditation and philosophical practices of the East yet its 21st century secular application boosts energy levels and the performance of the immune system, while enhancing your emotional wellbeing and quality of life.
Mindfulness increases your awareness of your thoughts, feelings and actions. In effect mindfulness is a relationship within yourself, and between you and others. Like any new skill, it takes effort and commitment to master mindfulness. Yet, and this is going to sound contradictory despite the techniques and tips described here, mindfulness isn’t actually something you do. Rather it is about letting go of doing. It’s about simply being as you are. Being your real self – authentic, compassionate and confident self.
At the centre of mindfulness is the practice of meditation. Meditation is about paying attention to, and focusing on, certain areas, such as your breath, or one of your senses, or your body, or your thoughts, or your emotions. Mindfulness and meditation take practice. There is no easy way. Some people choose to take 20 minutes out of the day to practise and deepen their mindfulness.
Courses are a great way to start. Check out for mindfulness based stress-reduction (MBSR) courses.
Mindfulness and thoughts
We can’t control the thoughts that keep pouring into our minds. So here’s a startling truth: You are not your thoughts. Your thoughts are just thoughts. They are not facts. And you are simply an observer of your thoughts. When truly mindful, you do not attach meaning to thoughts. Nor do you react to them. You just observe them and accept them without judgement. You do not get snared by negative thinking or swamped by the negative feelings that spring from it. Because you are not your thoughts.
Mindfulness and feelings
Inside a space of compassion and curiosity and increased awareness, you can observe your emotions, in just the same way that you can observe your thoughts. And that leads to another startling realization: You are not your emotions. There is a significant difference between you and your emotions, and the practice of mindfulness can help you recognize the difference between the two. You are an observer.
In mindfulness you are invited both to acknowledge and to give mindful attention to your feelings, rather than avoiding them or reacting to them. This is a powerful technique that is capable of reducing the strength and intensity of painful emotions.
Breathing is at the heart of mindfulness. It gives you the opportunity to ‘tune in’ to your body, mind and heart. Try this two-part exercise for 3 minutes.
- First, sit up straight. • Awareness. Reflect on the following questions. What emotions am I aware of at the moment? Where am I feeling these emotions? Scan your body. What sensations are you aware of at this moment? Just accept them. What thoughts are you aware of? You are an observer of your thoughts. • Breathing. Bring your attention to your breathing. Notice your in-breath and your out-breath. You don’t need to change your breathing; just become mindful of it. If your mind is wandering, gently guide your attention back to your breath. Be grateful and appreciate your breathing.
Advanced technology has created robots that walk. However, I have never seen a robot that moves with the fluidity, agility and grace of a woman or a man. Have a go at mindful walking. It’s an excellent way of staying in the moment and of letting go of your anxieties and worries. Try going to the garden, park, forest, river walk, lake or seaside. Become aware of your breath. Notice how many steps you take on your in-breath during this time. Let’s say it’s four steps. Repeat in your mind: ‘In . . . in . . . in . . . in.’ And on your out-breath, if it’s, say, three steps, repeat: ‘Out . . . out . . . out.’ This helps you to become aware of your breathing. Don’t try to control your breathing. Just go along with what happens naturally. When you see something beautiful – such the changing seasons or children playing – stop and look at the scene. Notice that life exists in the present moment.
Mindful loving kindness
Mindfulness is about being compassionate and loving to ourselves. Find a place where you feel secure, safe and warm. Notice your in-breath and your out-breath. Allow phrases to come from your heart about the things that you wish for yourself or another, for example: ‘May I/you have compassion’, ‘May I/you be healthy’, ‘May I/you be accepting’, ‘May I/you be happy’, ‘May I/you be of sound body and mind’, ‘May I/you thrive’. Repeat the phrases over and over again, until they permeate your being. Allow your heartfelt expression to generate loving kindness towards yourself or another.