Mindfulness seems to be the latest buzzword, but what is mindfulness?
Is it really so powerful it can help with depression, anxiety and even improve your health with just a few minutes a day?
According to Google mindfulness is ‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.’
Being aware of everything that is arising in the present moment without getting caught up, labelling, judging or resisting.
Doesn’t mindfulness sound simple? In its minimalistic form being mindful is slowing down and calmly being at ease with the world outside as well as your internal sensations such as thoughts and feelings.
We spend most of our lives on automatic pilot, controlled by our subconscious mind. Although you may feel you are in control of your life, you’re not, most of the time. Remember when you drove your car and cannot remember how you went through a particular village? That’s what our lives are like most of the time.
We are complete habitual creatures just repeating actions based on what is happening in our lives at the time. The key to mindfulness is becoming aware when we are in the infinite loop of our habits and consequently breaking out of it and not allowing it to control us.
Take a deep breath, become aware that your breathing and take notice of all the little feelings that go along with the beginning of the breath right through to the end. The feelings in your nose and mouth, your chest rising and your lungs filling. The small pause between breathing out and your chest returning to its natural position.
Congratulations, you’ve just become present.
While taking that breath, I suspect you were not worried, anxious or feeling depressed. You are simply just being in that moment with your breath. When was the last time you took notice of yourself breathing? Most people go days, weeks or even months without becoming aware that they are breathing. Become ill with a cold and you suddenly become aware of your breathing.
You’ve just experienced mindfulness in its purest simplest form. It’s the easiest way of practising it and it gives you an immediate experience of what life can be like when you are not judging, arguing, labelling, frustrated or blissfully somewhere else.
Mindfulness is being aware of things that are arising not just in the outside world but also internally. Just like the sound that comes and goes so do your thoughts and feelings. We spend so much time hoping for peace of mind, moments of clarity where we are not thinking stuff up.
Guess what. There is no off switch.
When we’re mindful, we are aware of our thoughts and feelings. However, we do not go with them; we do not label them or judge them. We just allow them to come and go so we stop identifying ourselves with them.
Here is a ‘12 minute mindfulness guided meditation‘ to give you a little idea on what mindfulness is.
I will cover this in more detail as the series goes on over the next few weeks but here’s a brief overlook of how mindfulness can help us.
The list is almost endless. However, I’m sure you get the point.
If you haven’t tried my 12-minute meditation above I would urge you to do so, although it is not necessary.
There are three main types of meditation.
Granted, these are the meditations in their simplest form. There are many variations of each one and there are some I have not mentioned like transcendental meditation. I don’t think it’s relevant or necessary.
Mindfulness is about complete acceptance but it differs from the full acceptance meditation because you do not put time aside as you would a meditation. Very typically you would get into a meditation pose, close your eyes and meditate for a certain amount of time. Mindfulness is about bringing it to everyday life, while talking to somebody, dealing with your children or just walking in the park.
Having a reasonable meditation practice will help your mindfulness practice but you do not need to have both.
Updated for 2023