Mindfulness is the buzz word of the day. You hear mindful eating, mindfulness based stress reduction, mindfulness in meditation, mindful walking and more. Why is this mindfulness such a buzz?
What is mindfulness anyways?
By definition, mindfulness is a quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Another definition is a mental state that is achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensation.
I like to simplify it. I teach my clients that it is the awareness of the moment now. Mindfulness is a process and takes present moment, consistent practice. Over time, you start to realize you can actually choose your thoughts and thereby choose emotions. This awareness takes mastery.
As a society, we are trained to be constant responders to what is happening around us. If we are watching the news, or focusing on what is going wrong in our lives, we can get caught up in chaos. Within that we may feel like we are wrapped up in a tornado of life's experiences. We can start to feel victimized, exhausted and drained. As time passes, it is no surprise that more people spiral into depression and sadness.
Study after study has shown the benefits of mindfulness. Everything from chronic pain to obesity to high blood pressure, depression, stress, anxiety and more are amenable to treatment using mindfulness. Can awareness really do that much?
Consider some quotes by Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor in his book Man's Search for Meaning. "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
As you start to practice this, you will truly see the power of these words. In my experience, mindfulness or deliberate awareness can be the true key to healing. When I have taught clients that they are not their thoughts, but much more than that, there is true healing in just that. As soon as people begin to notice the breath and improve present moment awareness, then they can then start to choose their thoughts. Within a short period of time, this awareness starts to pay off. They first start to notice they are not their emotions. With consistent practice, they can avoid what may seem like a never-ending cascade into depression and sadness simply with this step.
This awareness in itself can be life giving. This provides freedom of thought, liberation in our emotions and exhilaration in our experience on the planet. Imagine what life could be like, if you were not always responding to the circumstance in your life.
"The one thing you can't take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one's freedoms is to choose one's attitude in any given circumstance." - Victor Frankl
If this is new to you, you may be surprised as to how easy it is. It takes baby steps, but with regular practice, you can start to truly shift your life.
How to start mindfulness?
To start a mindfulness practice, simply start by sitting for five to ten minutes. It could be sitting on a chair, on the ground or lying down if that is most comfortable. As you sit, close your eyes. Start to put your focus and attention on your breath entering and exiting the nostrils. As you do this, you will start to notice the thoughts that come and go and try to take away your attention from this moment. As this occurs, bring your awareness back to the breath. Each time your mind goes to the thoughts, and you bring it back to your breath -- you are meditating. With practice, these five minutes will become 10, 20 and so on.
After you get comfortable doing this, begin to bring mindfulness to walking. As you walk, notice the heal strike, the toe roll and so on. Simply breathing and being aware of the foot in contact with the ground is mindfulness.
Then, you can move the mindfulness practice to eating. Become aware of the aromas, textures and the salivation in your mouth from the food. Star to chew the food slowly, becoming blissfully aware of each movement. Again, simply breathing and the heightened awareness is mindful meditation.
As you do this, you are learning to take mindfulness into all areas of your life. Very soon, you will be a very deliberate, constant mediator! And then you will begin to feel the exhilaration of what life can truly bring to you. Have fun in the process. This is meant to be pleasurable, not hard work. If you need help, there are many mindfulness courses; YouTube meditations and online tips that can aid you in the process.
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