Mindfulness meditation involves sitting still, quieting the mind, conscious breathing, and practicing awareness. Awareness, itself is simply the act of being aware of the thoughts in your mind and the sensations of your body. Mindfulness goes even further and includes the awareness of the TOTALITY of the present moment. For example, if you have pain in your neck, you may notice that, but you also notice the smell in the air, the coziness of your sweater against your skin, etc.
So how does this translate to real life?
Well when we are faced with an issue in life, we tend to dwell on it with meticulous precision. Meaning, we think that’s all there is and seem to block out everything else that’s good in the world! You can probably relate to a time when you had a fight with a co-worker or friend and that’s all you thought about for days? You worried and stressed yourself out over what might happen, if they will still like you, or if you’ll have to apologize, etc.
When you practice mindfulness, you focus on the TOTALITY of the present moment. You become aware that there are positive elements at that moment as well as painful ones. You are able to see through many different perspectives and think clearly without saying things or making decisions that appear irrational. You can act objectively, not subjectively.
Our minds, however, have a very strong tendency to wander…
A mindfulness practice is one of the best ways we can get good at returning to the moment we are in. And the most effective tool for doing so is the breath. Remember mindfulness is a practice…it is not a destination. Again and again, we will have to bring our attention back to the breath, back to awareness, back to the present. Breath is just a convenient, rhythmic anchor that we always have at our disposal.
“When you practice mindfulness, you become aware that there is a difference between being aware of your emotions and being mindful of your emotions. To be mindful of your emotions, you must be aware of yourself “on purpose” and observe your reactions to things in a non-attached way, as if you were observing yourself from outside of yourself.” (Mumford)
The best way to do this is when you notice you have a negative emotion about something. Freeze time. Picture yourself leaving your body and looking at it across the room. Change the color of the skin of the people in the room too bright orange. Their clothes are now a bring purple.
Now take away the background and make it white. This should look really funny. Now, look at the white room of people with ridiculous colored skin and clothes…it takes away all the seriousness. It makes it seem not so important because it usually isn’t. In a week from now will you still feel so emotionally charged about the situation? Probably not…
The greatest benefit of this practice is being able to THINK about your job and relationships, but you won’t get tangled up in over-analyzing and worrying about them. Imagine if you could just let it all go. Of course, you want to be prepared, but what’s the point of worrying? When your mind is quiet, you can be the “watcher.” You can sit back and take in the situation without being controlled by it.
Taking even a few minutes every day to practice mindfulness in this way will make it easier and easier to slow down time and respond better to whatever life throws at you. Caution: this is not going to be easy for most of you. Because for most of you, you’ve spent your entire life distracted in thoughts … never really feeling the present moment. Not to worry tho, the mind is a muscle and will progress if given the right stimulus. Start slow and take small steps every day.
Reference: Mumford, George. “The Mindful Athlete.” 2016.
Picture Credit: https://skydancerspace.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/mindfulness_image.jpg