What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to the present moment, without judging it or trying to change it. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? If you’ve ever tried it you will know that it is simple but far from easy. Our minds tend to wander on to thoughts of what needs doing today, problem solving or when we last fed the cat. Of course we need to think about these things in order to live our lives. Our minds are amazing but if we never give them time to rest how can we expect them to function efficiently. It would be like asking a Formula One car to run a non-stop race without refuelling or taking a pit stop. Eventually it will burn out. Mindfulness practice can provide a much needed pit-stop for the mind.
Why practice Mindfulness?
If we never stop we run the risk of living our lives on auto-pilot, not noticing life as it is happening. We may wonder how life is passing us by so quickly. If you have ever gone to take a sip of tea only to realise that you’ve already finished it then you probably know what I mean. Mindfulness helps us recognise when we are running on auto-pilot and reconnects us to the feeling of being alive.
The benefits of Mindfulness include:
People who practice regularly often find that they:
How do we do it?
There are two elements to Mindfulness practice. There is the daily discipline of sitting for a period of time (10, 20, 30 minutes or more) purposefully following the breath. We call this formal practice, or Mindfulness meditation. It’s a bit like going to the gym where we build the muscles of the mind. Then there is the informal practice when we notice the present moment throughout the day. For example, we may be eating or walking down the street. The daily formal practice is so important because it supports us in being more mindful in everyday life.
There are opportunities everywhere to be more mindful. In fact, there is not a moment that goes past when we cannot practice Mindfulness. You may be having a cup of tea, doing the ironing, driving to work, using the photocopier, sending a text. There is no such thing as the right moment. You simply choose which moment.
Whilst practicing Mindfulness it is quite normal to be distracted by thoughts of having to unload the dishwasher or pick the kids up from school. The idea is not to push these thoughts away but to notice them, allow them to come and then allow them to go. The mind will wander – that is what it does. We are not trying to never think again but give the mind a break from all the hard work it does. Imagine how much more efficient it will be with some good quality rest.
So Mindfulness gives us the time to simply be and to engage more fully with our lives. It is a practice that takes discipline and dedication but the benefits can be life changing.
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