It's just some mumbo jumbo new age stuff isn't it?
It's just something to do with Buddhist monks isn't it?
It's something that people do in that Yoga isn't it?
To all the above questions the answer is NO, it is not!
Well what is it then?
And how can it help me?
Mindfulness is actually a very simple thing, yet an unbelievably powerful thing.
It has, in lots of cases been sort of blown up by many making it out to be this unreachable state, this thing that only people whom are 'enlightened' use or only stars and rich people use.
So, let’s cut through all the bull about it and explain just how simple yet complex and amazingly powerful it is.
Firstly, let me say that yes, mindfulness although not actually called that originally, has it's origins in Buddhism and something that the original Buddha taught over 2500 years ago. Buddhism contrary to popular belief is NOT a religion and to say it is would be like saying that the English we are taught in school, is a religion. It is a teaching just as English is, it can be taught or learnt religiously but it is not a religion.
We can also see tracings of it in the ancient Vedic texts as a teachings though the thought of ‘we are all one and one is all’.
Right, down to the nitty gritty.
The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
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.
Mindfulness is about being aware of your surroundings, connecting, and then guiding your thoughts in a positive and constructive direction. With practice you will get better at guiding your thoughts to fine tune a state-of-mind that best fits whatever circumstance you find yourself in.
Imagine that you have say, 100 sheets of paper neatly piled up in front of you, (100 thoughts you have) you can only see what is on the top piece yet accept that there is something on the 99 others, but you deal with the top one then, move it and file it out of the way under its related heading once it has been dealt with, then onto the second sheet and so on.
That is the simplicity of mindfulness.
It is acknowledging there are many more sheets to work through but accepting you can only do one at a time to give your full focus and attention to that one sheet: that single thought, the present moment.
As you work through one sheet (a single thought) at a time, you come across one that you cannot work out, either that you just don't understand it, or you understand it but don't know the answer to it, or there is not enough information to give a factual answer to it. So, you acknowledge that at the present time you cannot resolve it and place it upside down starting another pile. (So, it creates being in the present moment and peace of mind knowing you can go back to it later)
Once you have been through every sheet and filed away the ones you have concluded, had an answer for.
Then you turn your attention and focus to the pile upside down that you couldn't conclude.
You turn the first one and ask yourself a couple of questions:
Will finding the answer add any positive meaning to my life?
If the answer is yes... Then how will it add positivity into my life?
Does finding the answer warrant the effort compared to other answers needed in my life?
If yes... Why does it?
If the answer would add positivity to my life, then do I need to ask questions to give me more facts to find the answer or add to my understanding to then find the answer?
If yes... Who do I ask the questions of?
If the answer to any of these questions will not add any positivity to your life, then you acknowledge they are negative thoughts, that you cannot do anything about, or they would bring negativity into your life if you did follow them up so, you 'bin them'.
You will find once you have practiced mindfulness for a while, most of these sheets (thoughts) actually don't add any positive meaning to your life and they will be filed in the bin.
The most difficult part is the acknowledgement, the acceptance of some thoughts not actually making any difference in the present moment of your life.
Right now, I bet you have the thought of, 'well I get that but how do I actually acknowledge some thoughts, to bin them?
That brings me onto what it actually means by living in the present moment and being present in the here and now.
A great many people say they live in the moment and in the here and now but, in actual fact they may say it, yet don't actually live as if they are, and allow their feelings to be controlled by external happenings. Even though mindfulness can be used and practiced in every second and every situation in your life.
For instance: You are walking down the street minding your own business when someone bumps into you, adding to it, they then turn to you and say “watch where you are going next time”.
Now this, could provoke a reaction of anger or upset from you, because it was actually not your fault and was them not looking where they were going. So, you shout back at them with negative words that you think are getting your point across and giving you the control of the situation, as in 'well that told them, I’m not standing for that, am I'.
This person that just bumped into you had recently lost a child!
Hard hitting isn't it!?
That is an extreme, but it gets my point across which is, we can never tell or know what another person is going through, or indeed where their mind is at any given time, just as they have no idea where yours is.
A negative reaction by you and from you, in the scenario described could be that persons breaking point and as we never know... That person could have then gone on to commit suicide. As I said it is hard hitting!
So, mindfulness is the understanding of this and accepting that you are not aware of other people’s lives and thoughts, knowing that if you react with anger or upset, it is actually that act or person that has controlled your feelings and you have ALLOWED it, actually given them permission to make you angry or upset, so in their control not your own. When in actual fact, you gain nothing from it, but negativity and on-going negative thoughts. Why, because the anger and upset will stay in your thoughts, you will bump into a friend and tell them about this person, then in the future someone will tell you a similar thing and you will recall and then recount it. So that negativity from something that actually does not or at least shouldn't affect your life has actually had a huge impact on it in the now and then the future.
Yet if you had just acknowledged the act of another person that was not within your control and smiled saying something like simply sorry, the positive impact on your life is to just accept it happened and that it can't or doesn't affect your life in anyway and move on with a smile.
On the other hand, your positive acknowledgement may have a massive impact on that person’s life, I have had the exact experience in the past and the person has then turned saying, 'no, I am sorry it was my fault, my mind was elsewhere' so the result of your acceptance and reacting positively has given that person some positivity to carry forward in their own world.
Being mindful, although does have a massive impact or your own life, it also impacts those around us and those we come in contact with.
So, think about anything that happens or anything that others do with a question of, would a negative reaction actually add anything to my life, and does this act actually affect my life right now. I cannot control what others do but I am in full control of what I do!
Now, I am hoping I have explained enough for you to understand the reasons to be mindful, so now onward...
How do I actually become or practice being mindful?
In a word... Meditation!
Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.
That is the definition and explains why it creates mindfulness... It focuses your attention on the present moment.
You see, we have no control of the past only how we react to it... We also have no control of the future, anything at all could happen, it is out of our hands. We can plan for our future, but we cannot control each new future moment because we have no clue what could happen next.
We can learn from the past and we can accept the past, but we cannot control or change it.
We can only control this present moment that we are in right now.
We also have no control of anyone else and what they do or think. We only have control over our own thoughts and our own thoughts are based on the unique experiences we have had in our lives.
(Side note: because we have and do have unique experiences and see and hear in a way that only we can process, then our perception or opinion of something is just ours and no one has that same perception but us.)
So, we are fully in control of our own present moment and our thoughts are completely within our control. How we react to those thoughts is in our control, how we take them thoughts forward is in our control, to the extent that bringing the past into the present thought, is in our control. The extent that we worry about the unknown future is completely under our own control.
To get to the point of knowing this and living in the present moment of mindfulness, we must look within ourselves and create it. All our lives we have been given and taught negativity whether that is with other opinions, teachings or what we see and hear. So, it is a difficult process to change our thoughts into mindfulness but many have done it and many will carry on doing it and YOU can do it also.
Once you have begun the process of being mindful and living in the present moment you can use it in every second of your life and your life will massively change for the positively.
Just some of the now scientifically proven positives gained from practicing mindfulness are:
stress reduction, improved concentration, boosts to working memory, reduced rumination, less emotional reactivity, more cognitive flexibility, higher level of relationship satisfaction, etc. The list goes on and on. Which means that it gives YOU happiness in many if not all areas of your life.
That happiness is then projected onto those around you, your kids, your partners, your work colleagues, the woman serving you in the café etc...
Now, firstly to start practicing mindfulness properly and sustainably to give you an abundance of joy in your life, you will need to do that meditation thing, but it is a sort of watered-down version.
You will need to start with finding a quiet space where you cannot be distracted, turn phones on silent, or leave in another room, better still turn them off, they are the number one distraction in our modern day lives.
Next find a comfortable sitting position, with your back as straight as you are comfortable with. (sitting straight gives your body a sense of control and power, and is also a natural bodil
Look straight ahead and lower your head slightly, lowering your gaze also. (again, this is a natural position, and we don't want you to have to think about our position)
Now, relax your body, starting with thinking about your feet, allow them to relax, then your legs, your hips, your torso, your shoulders, your arms, and your hands. Only think of each part of your body relaxing at any one time, stay thinking of that part until it is relaxed before moving onto another part. (once you have practiced this a few times it will become natural and easy to fully relax in one go.)
If at any point your mind wanders to thoughts other than relaxing your own body, (This is normal) Then acknowledge those thoughts are there and bring your thought back to the body part you were relaxing.
Once your whole body is nice and relaxed, then focus your thoughts onto your breathing, don't change or try and change your breathing just continue naturally. To start with it can be normal for you to actually change your breathing, if it does, acknowledge you did it (Simply, oh I changed my breathing rhythm) and gently relax your chest back into natural breathing.
Concentrate your thoughts solely on your breathing, notice how it is as you exhale and then inhale.
Thinking of nothing else but the breathe as it enters your body and then leaves your body.
If your mind wanders onto other thoughts (This is natural for it to do so and it will) then acknowledge them thoughts are there and that they can wait, (they will still be there if they are important once you have finished) then gently bring your thoughts back to your breathing. Your thoughts completely on the breathe moving in and out of your body.
Continue repeating this until you are thinking of nothing but your breathing. (Your mind wandering occasional to start as I said, is natural) but once your thoughts are far more on your breathing than on wandering, then continue as below.
Think about your chest raising up as the breathe enters and how is softly falls as you exhale, each time you inhale feel the air slowly moving inside you, filling your lungs as your chest raises, then as you exhale, how you can feel the breathe leaving your body as your chest falls again.
I cannot stress enough that keeping your thoughts focused on this for a period of time is hard and it takes dedication, do not beat yourself up if you do not get it after the first, second, third or fourth time, YOU will get it and YOU will know when you have done.
It is natural for your mind to wander, just remember to acknowledge that them other thoughts are there, and they CAN wait until you are ready to think about them after you have finished your mindful meditation. (Doing this actually starts to give you the control over your own thoughts rather than your thoughts having control of you).
It is a pretty mad thing but, once you have tried this successfully for even 30 seconds it will give you a new relaxation and new perspective which makes you feel refreshed and far more positive in mind and actions.
Keep trying it and keep the determination that is, doing it is proven beyond any doubt to give you a more positive, happy, and fulfilled life. It also helps massively with anxiety and depression, over thinking and a general acceptance and understanding of everything in your life, including physical ailments.
Once you have got the technique, carry it out on a daily basis if you can for about or at least 5 minutes of every day. If you happen upon something in your life that creates a negative feeling, then at the next available opportunity afterwards give yourself 5 minutes of mindful meditation. But at the time, ask yourself the questions I noted previously. ‘Is this going to add anything positive to me or my life?’
You have all heard of the old saying 'just count to 10' this is a form of mindfulness; it gives a person the count of ten to calm down. This concentrates the mind on a singular thought, counting.
So, mindfulness can be used in everything, if you feel yourself becoming upset or angry then stop, think about your breathing for a minute and calm down. If you are becoming frustrated stop, think of your breathing and calm down.
If you become upset or angry, have negative thoughts on an external happening or project negativity to anyone or anything else, then when you have a moment reflect on it and ask yourself if it was necessary, if it gave any positive meaning in your life, and how could you improve it if it happened again. Then, acknowledge it happened and move on. No need to beat yourself up over it, as I said earlier it is in the past and we cannot change or control the past, just accept it and learn from it. Just as we cannot beat ourselves up over something someone else has said or done, we cannot control anything or anyone else, we can only have complete control of ourselves and our thoughts…
So, if you are ‘made’ angry or upset, you are actually making yourself angry and upset. In the Buddhas teachings, he describes it perfectly! When we allow anger, upset or frustration to be within us, it is the same as holding a hot coal, the longer you hold it, the more damage it will do YOU. Not anyone else, but you and that will effect anyone around you negatively also.
Well, I think I have given you plenty of detail there and waffled on a bit. As ever if you would like help or have any questions or queries, then don't hesitate in messaging me or better still leave a comment below. Many thanks for reading. Any comments whether positive criticism or questions are welcomed.
Love, Light and blessings to you all.