What is Mindfulness? Well, the traditional definition is to step back from the mundane dimension and to watch what the mind is doing with no judgement, no opinions; just observing, witnessing the traffic of thoughts and emotions of the mind. This inherent but forgotten ability allows to connect with the present moment and find a space of stillness.
If the mind is not here and now, where is it? Most of the time lost in thoughts and emotions going round and round, spinning in all directions in space and times; and the more it happens the more mental storylines are reinforced. The mind is a time traveler journeying into the past, replaying scenes which happened in our lives or bringing modifications as a wish to change the outcome. Then it jumps into the future, a land of many possibilities but mostly perceived as a source of anxiety filled with questions with no answers and so on it goes back and forth with no seemingly preordained sequence.
Mind can also focus into a space of self-absorption or onto another person or a situation, “I can’t deal with that”, “I feel angry with what she/he said”, “I feel frustrated with that situation”, “What if this happens?”, What if that happens?”.
It is interesting to notice that most of the thoughts are either into a negative or interrogative mindset. The analytical part of the brain calculates to the most potential outcome. How about the intuitive part of the brain, untainted by past hurts and wounds capable of illuminative, creative solutions? Even better, how about learning how to use both aspects of the mind synergistically? Being able to analyze, plan, organize, act is certainly fundamental to progress and grow in life but the capacity to reflect and create are equally essential for the becoming.
The mind can be switched to more happiness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, focus, creativity, spontaneity. How does that sound? Empowering. Liberating. Expansive.
Yet too often, mental health can be overlooked until the mind gets into an overload mode with stress and overflowing with anxious thoughts and emotions.
So the question is. It all sounds great but How do we do it? How can we cultivate mindfulness in our life?
- By learning how to find the breath, the anchor for awareness to be cradled gently with the ebb and flow of the inhale and exhale. Awareness to become a witness of all what is going on within: planning, organising, analysing, thoughts, memories, past, future, senses expressions from visual to feelings, auditory. And in the middle of all this cultivating an inner field of compassion, kindness, patience, trust and faith.
- Witnessing the breath leads us to find the space of Stillness where clarity and insights come from.
- We can then connect and get to know what is real to us, what is bringing that authentic sense of purpose on a soul level - and not a manufactured, conditioned creature meant to be born and die with only chores in between.
- Creating positive transformative changes begin in how we deal with what we experience, the bad, the sad, the complicated, the messy. Because that is enough. It has been too long we live in passivity and accept we cannot change anything, that all the universe is against us, no one loves us and is ready to support us in our endeavours. But this voice is an illusion, a construct of our mind to keep us in our comfort zone. Because in truth, it is not simply a question of believing in ourselves. It is beyond this accepted concept; it is the knowing that we are already what we aspire to be and to do. It is there, maybe under the form of a seed which needs to be watered and nourished. It is nonetheless There. No doubt.
Here I am sharing a very simple Mindfulness exercise. It is a wonderful exercise for grounding as it refreshes our mind and cultivates our forgotten ability to live in the present moment.
- Make yourself comfortable, in a chair or lying down.
- Make yourself even more comfortable using your favourite blanket, cushions. Think about words like snug, warm, welcoming...
- Close your eyes, and take 3 deep breaths: Deep inhale through the nose... Full exhale through the mouth with the intention to release all tension and prepare yourself to enter the sweet world of relaxation
- Slowly come back to an effortless, natural and spontaneous breath; shifting your position to the observer and letting go of the controller by turning ON the inner vision.
- Watch the breath in all its facets through different ANCHOR points:
- Notice the physical sensation of the air passing through the nostrils Inward... Outward.
- Notice the cool temperature of the inhale... and the warm air of the exhale.
- Notice the rise and fall of the body moving in sync with the breath: Chest’s rise and fall / abdomen’s rise and fall
- Notice the length of the inhale
- Notice the length of the exhale
- Notice the depth of the inhale
- Notice the depth of the exhale
- Notice the spaces in between each breath
- If the mind starts to wander around, and it will, with compassion and patience, call it back to the anchor points.
- Mindfulness is about practice, training the monkey mind to stay anchored in one place and one time: The Here and the Now.
- Do not be worried about how many times the monkey mind wants to stray, just call it back over and over and over, with kindness.
- To finish, take a deep refreshing breath in and out.
- Start wiggling your toes, fingers
- Bring gentle movements to the ankles and wrists
- Bring gentle movements to the head and neck
- Bring your palms to the heart space and lower chin to conclude.
- Step back to life.
This exercise is the bedrock for any other meditations to flourish. Take the time to practice with no deadlines, no pressure. Just with kindness to your mind and ultimately to you.
That is one of the many gifts of meditation and mindfulness. Indeed, praying is our inner ability to talk to the Divine, meditating is to listen. And for that all we need is a safe, silent space allowing us to step back from the mental noise and clutter. No extra expensive equipment, no fancy clothes, no pressure to assert ourselves in society; just our authentic selves.
Jessica from Centrik Yoga
Jessica teaches at Yoga Torquay: Hatha Yoga on Monday mornings: 10am - 11:15am Flow Yoga on Wednesday mornings: 10:30am - 11:30am