Despite being an ancient Buddhist practice, Mindfulness is very much the buzz 'practice' of the moment, with celebrities from Will Smith to Meg Ryan and Russell Brand endorsing it's life changing effectiveness, as well as being promoted by main stream health care professionals all over the world.
Mindfulness is reported to help manage:
- Eating disorders
- Emotion regulation.... and much more.
So what is mindfulness?
The good news is that you don't have to give up all your worldly possesions, live in an ashram, or wear a poncho to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a way of being more than something you 'do', but it's profound effects can rapidly alter your behaviour, and resarch has shown that it can even change your brain chemistry.
Here are the basic qualities of being mindful:
The Power of Now
One of the golden rules of mindfulness is about bringing your attention to the present moment, not allowing your mind to wander backwards into the emotions or experiences of the past, or forwards into anxieties and preconceptions about future events; by bringing your attention to your current situation,and noticing how life is unfolding from moment to moment you remain open, curious and stable.
When you are fully present in the current moment you are able to give your full attention to the experiences and tasks that you are engaged in. You are aware and curious about exactly how you are experiencing each moment, how does this feel in your body? How does this taste? What thoughts arise? What can you see? What can you hear? What can you smell?
Mindfulness encourages acute self awareness and curiosity, it is very much rooted in being open to whatever 'is', without criticising, or judging or correcting, just noticing and accepting; recognising that all feelings and actions - yours and other peoples - serve a purpose, which you may or may not yet understand.
This lack of judgement encourages curiosity about whichever thoughts, feelings or sensations arise, which allows you to be open to your whole experience, rather than attempting to control, shut off or fear your responses. In this space you are able to watch the natural flow of your experience, like a river, moving, shifting and transforming over time.
Accepting What Is
This often feels like a very challenging aspect of mindfulness, as human beings we are particularly adept at problem solving, in fact we are so good at it, we have become problem 'seekers'. The quality of accepting what is assumes that everything is exactly as it is meant to be. You can give up the effort of attempting to change reality. Mindfulness expert and best selling author Byron Katie says, 'When I argue with reality I lose, but only 100% of the time'. When we can trust that whatever we are experiencing is the right thing, for right now, we are able to show ourselves and others infinitely more compassion, and withstand a much greater wealth of experiences.
A key mindfulness principle is that pain is rooted in fear, when we resist separation, when we hold on to things, be they people, thoughts, experiences or opinions because we are scared of giving them up we strangle our flow and this gives rise to pain. When we allow ourselves to let go we are able to free ourselves from fear and develop confidence in our own capacity to endure.
This is a recognition that all things are connected in some way, that we are all part of a whole. We are part of nature, we share the same sun and the same moon, we have the same needs, we and all of the natural world belong and co-exist in flow.
When we come from a place of peacefulness we are able to be non-violent, we do no harm. We are able to surf the waves of life and its challenges without abandoning our values or ethics. You bring a peaceful heart to others.
You mindfully treat yourself and others with love, gentleness and kindness; you soften towards yourself and others in times of strain. You are able to empathise with others without judgement, and without causing yourself suffering. You are able to listen carefully to the quiet communications of your own and other people's needs.
Mindfulness encourages us to develop an observing mind at all times, like all new things, mindfulness is often tricky and difficult to begin with but with practice becomes second nature.It certainly helps to develop a regular mindfulness practise to enable you get 'in the zone'.
I recommend starting with this basic five minute breathing practice; lie or sit comfortably, close your eyes, and place your hands on your tummy. Breathe into your tummy through your nose and out through your mouth so that your hands gently rise and fall with your breathing. If you can, elongate your outwards breath so that it is longer than your inwards breath, remaining comfortable and gentle at all times. When your breathing become relaxed begin to become aware of any sensations that you are experiencing, and sounds, and feelings of tension, any smells, any thoughts. Observe that you are aware of these senations without judging them, just notice that they are there, notice how your awareness of these sensations flows and changes.
To move into a mindfulness that feels 'lived' rather than 'practiced', I suggest bringing your attention to an activity, perhaps an every day task that you might usually do 'mindlessly', like washing up; be fully present to the task, notice all of the sensations, sights, sounds, thoughts, without judgement. If your mind wanders off to another task, gently and compassionately redirect your thoughts back to the present moment. Notice how this changes your concept of time,notice how this affects your completion of the task and how you feel both about the task and in general.
If you'd like to know more about mindfulness, and how it can help in every day life or in stressful situations, I'd love to hear from you, get in touch with me at email@example.com or visit my website www.kymnetherton.co.uk. I also teach mindfulness and hypnosis for birth.