What’s Mindfulness got to do with it?
‘The real meditation is how you live your life’ - Jon Kabat-Zinn this is a great reminder that mindfulness is a practice to help connect with our life and fully experience it.
Mindfulness has been a key part of my life for a few decades now. I have found it provides us with the opportunity of being in the present moment and we do this by formal practices like meditation, breathing and yoga.
Let’s explore what is mindfulness? Techniques to use daily and how to integrate mindfulness into your daily and practice.
‘Paying attention: on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally’ - Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Mindfulness is the science of understanding revealing how we work. Key components are attention, attitude and intention. The seven elements proposed by Jon Kabat-Zinn and the attitude we are cultivating when practising mindfulness is:
- beginner’s mind,
- letting go
Understanding mindfulness as hurtfulness these elements then extend to make more explicit the following qualities of the heart: gratitude, gentleness, generosity, empathy and loving kindness.
Personally I like the ABC of mindfulness by Dr Paramabandhu Groves seeing it as a skill for me is key. The A is for awareness if we want to change something then we need to know what we are doing in the first place. That skill of sensing what is going on in our mind and body. The B is learning to be in a world of doing and to be with the experience. Often we get caught up in our thoughts, emotion and physical sensation and get caught in the story that escalates it and causes grief. It is that space or gap to then focus on making wise choices which is the C.
Within Mindfulness there are four formal practices - body scan, sitting and walking meditation and moving meditation. Informal practices are everyday activities to which we bring mindfulness eg. brushing teeth, showering, preparing meals, eating, driving and doing dishes. We also know that as little as ten minutes formal practice a day changes the brain and supports our wellbeing. Bringing ourselves back to the present moment, using all our physical senses to experience as much of what we can as possible.
We live so much in a world of doing where people appear to be striving to do more, avoidance, believing all thoughts to be real, living in the past and future, indirect experience and being on automatic pilot. Mindfulness provides the opportunity to be with non striving, the realisation that our thoughts are just thoughts. To live in the present moment and cultivate an internal attitude.
One useful practice is the three step breathing space to be practiced anytime and anywhere. It can be as short as three breaths or three minutes or longer it can be seen as the bridge between informal and formal practice mentioned above.
The three steps: Awareness - asking what is your experience know. Gathering - awareness into your breathing, noticing each in breath and each out breath - the. Breath is our anchor. Expanding your awareness beyond your breath so that it comes to include a sense of your body as a whole together with your posture and your facial expression.
During the day return to your breath - five mindful breaths just try it and enjoy connecting with your breath.
There are many benefits of mindfulness including: being able to realise that we can only do one thing at a time, building better connections with people, less likely to dwell on the past, think more clearly, in terms of health less stress, emotional regulation, better sleep and overall mental wellbeing.
Mindfulness has been brought more to our attention over the last ten years, I originally started meditating and getting curious about mindfulness when my mother had a very severe stroke over twenty years ago. She was left paralysed, fed through her stomach and lost her speech. I found meditation and using the core principles of mindfulness supported me to be present and connect with my beautiful mother in a new way.
Since then I have been lucky to have been involved in introducing mindfulness in a wide range of settings from education, corporate sector, medical and to individuals. Learning to be more mindful improves our world and connection with it tuning in on what is really happening daily and what matters.