On another day, a few weeks ago, while on auto pilot and thinking too many thoughts, I got to my destination without even paying attention to the drive. Then there was one night last week I couldn’t sleep as I made all sorts of lists in my mind of things I needed to do. My distracted mind, or Monkey Mind as Buddhists called it, had taken control! I was falling into the trap of our culture and being too busy. (Do you remember what I think of busy… read more here about the 4 Letter Word, here). I had too much going on in my head. I realized that I needed to take the time to be more mindful!
What is Mindfulness?
It’s paying attention “on purpose”. It’s being aware without judgement. Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism. It’s the 7th part of the Eightfold path. Let on its own our mind wanders back into the past and forward into the future. These thoughts can include worry, anger, disappointment, fear, grief and self pity. You suffer with these thoughts because the past is gone and the future a fantasy. Letting go of these thought, paying attention without judgment. This creates a stillness and peace in the mind. When using mindfulness in your life you tend to be here now. And now is usually filled with contentment.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, brought mindfulness to the attention of Westerners (click here for some more about Thich Nhat Hanh). Others, like Jon Kabat-Zinn, the author of many books on mindfulness and the creator of the 8 week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course – MBSR, have brought mindfulness into the limelight. His course is now offered at hospitals as part of their healing plans. He teaches mindfulness to help people cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness. Mindfulness has become quite popular. It’s no longer considered to be “new-agey” or “woo-woo”. In fact there was an article in the Costco Magazine this month! Mindfulness is recognized as a way to alleviate stress and live more peacefully.
Why practice Mindfulness?
There is scientific evidence that practicing mindfulness can brings peace into your life through your body and mind. Mindfulness can rid the body and mind of stress, anxiety and worry. It can keep related illnesses at bay. It helps the immune system and with the healing process. It can enhance relationships. I think mindfulness, like gratitude, can lead to contentment.
Are you ready to try Mindfulness? There are a few things to do before you start… put any device away. Next don’t think about the past or the future. Mindfulness is all about living in the present. Lastly, remember to breathe. It’s amazing how often we hold our breath. Ok! Here are 6 ways to bring mindfulness into your life:
1. Use Your Five Senses Regularly – We often find ourselves in our mind with our 5 senses muted. When your senses are on, your are aware. And if you’re going to be mindful remember to turn on your senses.
2. Be Mindful First Thing in the Morning – quietly wake up, pause, do some deep breathing or stretch. Have a positive thought. Do not pick up your phone or check your computer. Do not watch the news. Have a quiet ritual that can include smelling the coffee, listening to the birds, meditation or just sitting quietly.
3. Be Mindful During Your Regular Routines – I try be in the moment when I am:
• washing the dishes
• driving down the road
• brushing my teeth
• tidying up
• even simply breathing
4. Be Mindful In Nature – This is one of my favorite ways to be mindful. I go sit in my garden and watch the insects. Or take a walk. It’s an instant energizer for me!
5. Be Mindful While Eating – take time to really smell and taste your food. Put your fork down between bits.
6. Practice A Mindfulness Meditation – Many people practice meditation to reduce stress, worry and anxiety. It even helps with illness. Sit quietly, breathe, observe, accept and let go during a mindfulness meditation. Your mind will wander, gently bring it back. Here is a three minute meditation that is often taught with the Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MNSR method:
7. Be Mindful With Your Family – Be mindful when in the presence of your family. Be mindful when you are with others, even people you don’t know. Put down the phone, shut the computer and really listen. Look in their eyes. Have a meaningful conversation! This is what you’re here on the earth for… to be with people you love.
Life is a series of experiences, good and bad. Those experiences are often worries about future and depression about the past. Let go of that, at least for a little while. Come out of your head and give living in the present a try. Give mindfulness a try. Observe, accept and let go. It’s a positive way to react with your day to day life.
By the way, I decided not to make that day, a few weeks back, into a busy day. I dropped all my plans, grabbed my camera, the zen papa and my bike and rode off to be mindful in nature. I still got a lot done in the afternoon but not with stress and worry. Having a morning of mindfulness changed my day into something special. Here are a few of the pictures from that mindful morning:
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn
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