You hear that everywhere these days. What does it really mean?
Does one have to live like a Zen monk to live mindfully?
No, not at all.
Living “mindfully” really just means living in the present – as in: quit fretting about what could happen, and resist looking backwards at the things that did happen.
Easy. But not so easy.
As soon as many of us feel even the slightest bit of discomfort, we often reach for something to take that away. It might be a cigarette, food, social media, substances, external validation (please “like” my selfie!!) or shopping.
So, how do we bring our Self into the present?
Try to bring awareness into your body. If you are standing, notice the sensation of your feet on the floor. If you are lying down, notice the sensation of your body on the bed.
Next, try to focus on your breathing. Intentionally notice each breath in and out. Try doing this for 10 breaths in, 10 breaths out.
Turn your attention to your surroundings. What do you notice? Is the cat dish empty? Is there a chip in the ceiling? Name 3 things you can see.
Next turn your attention to the sounds in your environment. Are there seagulls outside your window? Can you hear traffic? Your neighbours’ television?
Now notice what is happening in your body. Are you hungry? Do your shoulders ache from sitting at the computer?
What emotions are present for you right now? Are you judging yourself for getting this mindfulness stuff “wrong”? (just notice that, resist judgment).
Do you feel a combination of emotions? Can you sense some happiness, but perhaps a little sadness or concern for those you care about that may be suffering? Stay with those feelings. Give yourself permission to feel sadness without moving into fretting about the future (giving rise to anxiety!).
Contrary to popular belief, acknowledging uncomfortable emotions does not make them bigger or increase distress – ironically, the opposite is true: suppression/numbing of uncomfortable emotions cause longer duration of distress (and yet so many of us continually do this).
We as human beings are meant to experience the whole array of emotions. We cannot selectively numb the ones we dislike – if we numb sadness, we invariably numb joy and happiness.
The practice of mindfulness gets easier with – you guessed it: practice!
The more you incorporate mindfulness in your life, the more you will notice its preventative qualities (think: emotional strength-training).
Focusing your living in the present (the only moment you can control), will reduce anxiety (usually a result of worrying about the future), and depression (lamenting the past), thus increasing joy and fulfillment.
The practice of mindfulness has been going on for centuries, and was considered a Buddhist spiritual practice. Nowadays, neuroscientists and psychologists have contributed a wealth of evidenced-based research that extol the significant benefits this simple practice has on increasing overall wellbeing.