We hear this term A LOT these days. A few years ago, the term “mindfulness” was rarely heard and now it’s everywhere. Kabat-Zinn, a teacher of mindfulness meditation says that it is the gentle effort to continuously present with an experience.
It is the practice of intentionally focusing your attention on the present moment and accepting what is being experienced without judgement. It is stopping to smell the roses. The cultivation of mindfulness has roots in Buddhism. Most religions, though, involve some sort of meditative practice that shifts your thoughts away from daily worries to attention to the moment.
The Huffington Post published an article a while back, outlining several benefits of mindfulness training.
How mindfulness can help you
People who practice mindfulness are generally less likely to become mired down in worries about a future that has yet to manifest or regret the past. People who practice mindfulness are also less preoccupied with notions of success and self-esteem. Unlike a lot of others, they are not normally motivated by fear.
Physically, mindfulness techniques have been employed by mainstream health care professionals to treat things such as stress, heart disease, hypertension, and sleep disorders. Mental conditions that have been helped with mindfulness training include depression, substance abuse, and anxiety.
Mindfulness training can help an individual to accept something that is happening to them – especially something painful – as opposed to avoiding something. We all know that things only get worse when we seek to avoid them. Mindfulness helps to deal with things head on.
Basic mindfulness techniques
Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. A good technique is called “Box Breathing”. Inhale to a count of 4, hold for 4, exhale to a count of 4, and hold for 4. Allow thoughts to enter and leave without judgement. Your focus should be on your breathing.
Notice your body and how it feels. Allow sensations such as itches to occur without judgement. Let them pass. You can do this throughout the day by taking a few minutes to focus on different body parts.
Accept emotions as they occur, without judgement. If you are angry, allow yourself a few moments to experience anger. Know what it is, give it a name, but don’t belittle yourself or try to explain to yourself why you are angry. Just know that this emotion will pass and let it leave your body as quickly as it came.
Stay with things
Accepting joy is easy. Accepting an itch is easy. Accepting anger, fear, joint pain, a headache, or the craving for a drink is not so easy. With practice, though, your self awareness expands and with that a greater acceptance of the depth and breadth of your life’s experiences. When your mind starts to wander, simply redirect it back to breathing. Don’t worry if you can’t do this all the time or right away. It takes practice to still the inner chatter within ourselves and we can have a thousand starts. When this happens, simply dust yourself off, tell your inner critic to get knotted, and focus on your breathing.