"Mindfulness -pffff! Just another one of those useless things in fashion this year", said a former colleague of mine a few years ago, forcing me to look into it more deeply. You see, when things are "in fashion", I tend to want to understand why they are getting the hype that they are instead of dismissing them. And I discovered that mindfulness is more than a temporary fashion trend without substance- it's the real deal.
From mindfulness classes to silent retreats, it is true that it has become somewhat of a buzzword nowadays. Since reading about it, practicing it myself and having worked on it with my clients, I have witnessed people transform: they go out of autopilot-mode and into a different way of being – fully present for themselves and the people around them. It is an incredibly powerful tool to decrease stress and increase well-being and, just like breathing which I talked about in my last blog post, you don’t need any extra tools for it: it’s right there for you to access.
My own definition of mindfulness is simple: being aware. Most of us go live our lives disconnected and...unaware. How often do you go through a whole day without once being present? How often is your mind somewhere else? Are you at home when at home and at work when at work, or do the two get mixed? Are you fully present when you are in someone’s company?
How often is your mind where your body is?
Our society is based on the motto “get things done”. “Just being” isn’t valued – and for most people, even just the thought of not doing anything makes them uncomfortable. If you have never experienced meditation or a mindfulness practice, just being might sound passive and pointless. We are all so distracted by technology, so overwhelmed by a huge flow of information and so pushed towards mindless consumerism. But once you experience the freedom that comes from feeling that you don’t have to ‘do’ anything, you know that it is often cleansing, and even productive.
So how do I start being more mindful?
First of all, you need to understand that it’s not about shutting down your brain so that you don’t think. Your brain will always think – that’s human nature. All we’re trying to do is pay attention to the moment, without judgement. Your mind will wander all the time. You might think of what you’re eating later, of a conversation that happened yesterday, an emotion might even come up. That’s OK. All you need to do is bring your attention back to the present moment. That’s what you are practicing – and this is precisely the moment where you’re benefiting from your mindfulness practice.
Curious on how to start? Here is a basic beginners mindfulness practice:
Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
Set a time limit with your phone or alarm clock. If you’re just beginning, 5 minutes are more than enough.
Notice your body. It doesn’t matter how you’re sitting; on a chair, on the floor, on a cushion, on your knees. The most important thing is for you to be able to hold that position without discomfort.
Concentrate on your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
Be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
Here are some meditation/mindfulness apps that many people like: Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer.
It might sound easy, but believe me it’s not. You should, however, start noticing benefits in a matter of days. I would love to hear how it felt from you, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!
That's me meditating at sunset in India. The scenery doesn't have to be so nice, you can meditate in your living room and the effects are exactly the same!
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