In our daily lives, we lose ourselves in planning the future and reminiscing about the past. Our worries and fears hijack the present moment. But so many of us long to be more present in the Here and Now.
Many of us get tangled in a web of thoughts, distracting ourselves from the present. The mind's job is to create thoughts, and at this we excel -- each of us produces over 70,000 thoughts a day. If we don't begin to manage our thoughts, they can become distracting and bothersome, leaving us feeling negative and unhappy. When we are lost in our thoughts, we are not present.
Mindfulness is the perfect tool to anchor us in the Here and Now. The goal is not getting us to be different from how we already are, but helping us to become aware of the magic in the moment. In mindfulness, we focus our awareness on the Here and Now, while calmly acknowledging and accepting our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
When we harness our attention and focus it on our breath, it is natural for thoughts to divert our attention. Many people are bothered when this happens, and tell themselves that there's something wrong or that they're not succeeding. But having a lot of thoughts arise is normal and part of the process.
In pursuit of the present, we get lost within the narratives inside our heads. The stories become livelier and interactive. We begin an internal conversation about various aspects of our lives. The thinker and experience merge and awareness and the Here and Now are lost.
When we get lost inside these thought bubbles, it's as if we are day dreaming. We lack self-awareness and insight. We can stay stuck inside this false reality for a long time until we consciously tune back to our breath or another focal point of choice.
Although the thoughts are compelling, with practice it becomes easier to let them go. Like a non-stick Teflon pan, the thoughts leave our mind's surface without a mark. We will always be aware of the stories that want our attention, aware of the emotional pull they exert, but with practice, we can quickly shift into observing mode without active participation in the drama. We can observe the mind and accept what's happening without reacting or becoming intertwined. Through sustained focus, we will discover a dis-identification with the thoughts. The pull to bring us into the story isn't as strong.
In order to develop the ability to remain outside of our thoughts, we can practice being aware of the actual physical space around us. We can use our senses as focal points for grounding ourselves. As we tune into our senses and return to the Here and Now, we can be aware of feelings that arise in the body. Tuning into the qualities and the expansiveness of the mind. Is it open or closed? Dull or bright?Busy or quiet? Happy or neutral?
As we continue practicing this process daily, we eventually rise above our thoughts, gaining more control and presence in our lives.
Follow these 5 steps to embark on a mindfulness journey.
1. Find a point of focus to put your attention towards. You can use many different things including your breath, a specific body part, a flickering candle, the taste of food, or even a smell.
2. Take all of your attention and focus it. For the next five minutes, pretend that the only thing that matters is your focal point. Observe it. Be inquisitive. Pretend it's new. Try to notice every aspect.
3. Unless you are superhuman, a thought will interfere with your focused attention. Initially, you may or may not become aware of the thought. If you do, acknowledge it. Say hello.
4. Let that thought go. You can visualize it float away on a cloud, helium balloon or on a conveyer belt. It's gone. Adieu!
5. Bring yourself back to the present. With renewed focused attention, you are back to the Here and Now. Welcome!
Mindfulness is something that can be accessed anywhere at anytime. We don't need to sit in a chair, like a yogi, in order to do a mindfulness meditation. We can walk, talk, eat or breathe mindfully. Anytime we consciously bring ourselves back to the present, we are practicing mindfulness.
The benefits of engaging in a regular mindfulness practice can be life changing. Mindfulness has the capacity to alter our relationships to the many thoughts, feelings and emotions experienced daily, moment to moment. As we begin incorporating awareness and acceptance, we become less inclined to react as we once did. Mindfulness cultivates equanimity, presence and calm. Shall we give it a try?
About the author: Amira Posner is Healing Infertility's lead clinician and has unique mind body training. She is a professional therapist with Bachelor and Masters Degrees in Social Work from the University of Manitoba, a certified hypnotherapist and is a Fertile Body Method Practitioner. Amira runs Mind Body Fertility Groups at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
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