I keep seeing the word “mindfulness” everywhere, tied to everything from losing weight to being more productive. But what does this vague word actually mean, and how can I apply mindfulness to my life?
Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, just like meditation. As you’ve noticed, it’s getting more attention in the news as more studies come out showing the benefits of mindfulness. While it might sound like a New Age term, there’s real evidence that being more mindful can enhance just about every aspect of your life-and it doesn’t take hours sitting in lotus position to get there. Here’s what you need to know.
Mindfulness has many synonyms. You could call it awareness, attention, focus, presence, or vigilance. The opposite, then, is not just mindlessness, but also distractedness, inattention, and lack of engagement.
Mindfulness is both a practice and a state of mind (for lack of a better word). For example, when you practice mindfulness meditation, you’re sharpening your focus (usually by paying more attention to your breath) and training your brain to be more mindful long after you’re done meditating. When you’re exhibiting mindfulness, you’re fully engrossed in whatever’s going on around you. (There are other mindfulness exercises beyond meditating, as you’ll see below, and there are many other types of meditation as well, so while the two are closely related, they’re not the same.
You can think of mindfulness as simply being fully in the moment .That might be the simple definition, but being engaged 100% doesn’t come easy, especially in our world of distractions. It means actively listening and not zoning out (even a little) when your co-worker tells the same story for the third time, and it means using all your senses in even mundane situations like washing the dishes or walking to the bus stop.
Mindfulness has roots in Buddhist philosophy and religion, and is considered very important for the path to enlightenment. Wikipedia says (emphasis mine):
Enlightenment (bodhi) is a state of being in which greed, hatred and delusion(Pali:moha) have been overcome, abandoned and are absent from the mind. Mindfulness, which, among other things, is an attentive awareness of the reality of things (especially of the present moment) is an antidote to delusion and is considered as such a ‘power’ (Pali:bala). This faculty becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place.
HERE ARE A FEW EASY EXERCISES TO GET YOU STARTED
1. How to calm down and gather your thoughts
This is a very simple exercise to focus your attention to gentle breathing. Imagine there’s a small feather hovering at the end of your nose.Try to breathe so gently that the feather doesn’t move. One minute of this exercise should be enough to bring your scattered mind back into the moment and to make you feel calm.
2. How to eat mindfully
Take a small square of chocolate or a raisin and spend at least one minute eating it. Notice the aroma, the texture in your mouth, and what it feels like when you bite into it.Resist the urge to wolf down the tiny morsel in two seconds, and instead notice all the sensations in your mouth. Try doing this every day for a week, and you’ll be amazed at how it changes your whole approach to eating.
3. How to fall asleep
A body scan is a great way to calm yourself before you go to sleep, and can also help you doze off again if you wake in the night. Focus your attention on each area of your body, starting with your toes and moving up to your head.Breathe slowly and deeply with your eyes closed, noticing how each part of your body feels before moving on to the next. If your mind wanders, bring it back to the area of your body you’re working on.
The mindfulness training that lead to better memory and learning involved these six steps:
(a) sitting in an upright posture with legs crossed and gaze lowered,
(b) distinguishing between naturally arising thoughts and elaborated thinking,
(c) minimizing the distracting quality of past and future concerns by reframing them as mental projections occurring in the present,
(d) using the breath as an anchor for attention during meditation,
(e) repeatedly counting up to 21 consecutive exhalations
(f ) allowing the mind to rest naturally rather than trying to suppress the occurrence of thoughts.
Let’s try to be aware of our moments. Let’s train ourselves to be more mindful.
Let’s connect with our inner power!