What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a term that is being used with increasing frequency in the media, at gyms and yoga studios, as well as in business environments. Mindfulness refers to a psychological state of awareness where an individual pays close attention, with intention, in the moment without judgement. This is very different than the way most of us live our lives – which is often on auto pilot. We have habits and routines that shape most of our decisions and the pace of life often prevents us from noticing much of what surrounds us. Adding to this, our minds wander all the time, either reviewing the past or planning for the future, further obstructing the ability to live in the moment, or engage in thoughtful introspection.
Several disciplines and practices can cultivate mindfulness, such as yoga or tai chi. There are benefits to developing mindfulness through mindfulness meditation — those self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and/or development of specific capacities such as calmness, clarity, and concentration.
How to Practice Mindfulness:
The following is a short practice to get you started: 1) Take a seat - find a comfortable place to sit where there is little to no traffic in your home; 2) Set a time limit - If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a shorter time, such as 5 or 10 minutes; 3) Notice your body - you can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged or in lotus posture - all are fine. Just make sure you are in a position you can sustain for a while; 4) Feel your breath - follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out; 5) Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you notice this simply return your attention to the breath; 6) Be kind to your wandering mind - avoid judgement or frustration with the mind that can obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in.Simply return to your breath. That’s it! That’s the practice.
What are the Benefits of Being Mindful:
Those that learn and regularly practice the techniques of mindfulness often report that they experience decreased levels of stress and anxiety, less rumination and worry and an increased ability to focus on tasks for longer periods of time. They tend also to experience less emotional reactivity toward others and experiences, increased relationship satisfaction, as well as greater self-insight, intuition and a measured increase in feelings of calm.
To learn more about the practice of mindfulness you may find the following books useful - Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn; The Art of Breathing: The Secret to Living Mindfully by Danny Penman; Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams; The Power of Now by Eckart Tolle and The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh.