Mindfulness 101

Mindfulness is a way of life, and if you’re not already practicing this, it can be an effective way to improve your life!  Adopting mindfulness can help to relieve stress and anxiety, lengthen attention span, avoid burnout, and quiet the mind in difficult moments.  



What is Mindfulness? 


Simply put, mindfulness is the practice of being in the present moment, not the one before or the one to come.  It is the art of paying attention.  It might sound strange, but mindfulness is essentially doing nothing.  It is true awareness.    


Mindfulness stems from Buddhism, which dates back to the 6th century BCE.  However, mindfulness is not just for Buddhists.  It is universal.  You don’t even have to practice meditation to cultivate mindfulness, although the two are connected.  Mindfulness in itself is a form of meditation. 


You don’t have to sit still under a tree for days, like the Buddha, in order to experience mindfulness.   There are plenty of ways to embrace mindfulness in your everyday life.   In fact, mindfulness can be easily incorporated into the mundane tasks that you are already doing.  



How Can You Practice Mindfulness?


You can practice mindfulness when washing the dishes, folding the laundry, or driving your car.  Gardening or tending to plants, are also activities in mindfulness.  What do all of these things have in common? They are opportunities to notice, to tap into the tiny details of life.  To be present, as you feel the hot water on your hands, smell the dish soap, and listen to the sound of the faucet, for example.  By bringing awareness to our lives, we can experience more. More beauty and joy, as well as the not-so-desirable emotions, necessary to live fully, necessary for self-awareness.  Mindfulness can teach you a great deal about yourself, if you are open to it.    


Try this – You can practice mindfulness the next time you go for a walk, by taking stock of your senses.  Go without your headphones, and instead focus on the sounds around you.  Notice what you hear.  Maybe it’s the sound of your own breathing.  Pay attention to the sounds in front of you, behind you, and make note of them in your head, as if making a list: “traffic, birds, wind”, etc. Now, what do you see? Make note of the colors. What do you smell?  Take a deep breath in. Notice what you feel.  What is the temperature like?  How does it feel on your skin, against your face? Make note of all of these things, as you go along. 


Try this – Take a minute out of your day, for deep, slow breathing.  Count to 4 as you breath in, hold for 4, and breath out for 4. Repeat.  You may find that brief moments like this, have an immediate impact on your well-being. Mindfulness allows us to discover the world in a brighter light.


Try this – The next time you listen to a song, really pay attention to the lyrics.  What instruments can you hear?  What is the tempo like? How does the music make your body feel?  



Use Your 6th Sense


There is a deep realization of your senses in mindfulness, and that goes beyond your five senses.  The mind is the 6th sense.  Here, the mind doesn’t mean thinking.  


This is the elusive one because it’s not tangible.  The 6th sense goes by many names, such as intuition.  It means clear seeing and clear wisdom, which includes knowing ourselves.   


You Don’t Need to Shut Off Your Thoughts

 

When it comes right down to it, wherever you go, there you are. Whatever you wind up doing, that’s what you’ve wound up doing. Whatever you are thinking about right now, that’s what’s on your mind.”

The true challenge is avoiding past memories or future expectations anything that can take you away from the present moment, the right now.  Your thoughts will continue to swirl around in your head.  That’s okay.  Acknowledge their presence, but don’t hold on to them.  Try not to judge your thoughts.  Let them pass by like clouds in the sky.       


“Like it or not, this moment is all we really have to work with.”         – Jon Kabat Zinn

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