What is Mindfulness?
Modern life is undeniably stressful. Between balancing the many demands of managing a career and tending to our social lives, which can be ever-so-consuming, remaining mindful throughout all of the hustle and bustle can prove to be a challenge.
Mindfulness may sound like yet another trendy buzzword from a self-help book, but in reality, it is a crucial piece to the puzzle in our ongoing pursuit of happiness. The good news is it's not something hard to obtain. Although it takes work and conscious realignment, it's never outside of our reach.
Mindfulness is a verb as much as it is a noun. It is the basic ability to be present in the moment and ever-aware of where we are, what we are doing, and how it affects us. This kind of awareness draws attention to our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and breathing to keep us centered and present.
Roadblocks to mindfulness
You may be wondering what the big deal is? Aren't we always being mindful? After all, our minds are constantly occupied by something. Isn't that enough? How can we not be mindful when it feels like our minds are always full.
Therein lies the struggle.
While it is true that our minds are indeed full of dozens of trivial things at any given moment, many of these mind-fillers are distractions that pull us away from the present moment and preoccupy our head-space with superficial details.
The world is constantly barking at us, demanding our attention, and diverting our thoughts. Our phones let out an endless drone of vibrations and dings, the news is always breaking, our family and friends mean well, but they divert us in ways that invoke stress and anxiety. World events unfold in such a way that we become consumed with people, places, and things that are far from our here-and-now.
In an attempt to stay in the know, we stay glued to the perpetual flow of information that the bright screens we own continue to feed us. We might even fear losing relevancy. God forbid we miss out on the latest.
Do you prioritize keeping up with the Jones's as they say? We might commit a great deal of our attention to acquiring new stuff and consuming media. Because who doesn't need the latest iPhone? Have you watched Tiger King yet? Did you hear what Cardi B just said?
Our minds are constantly hijacked by thought bandits and we are plagued with the task of trying to maintain some semblance of presence and awareness,
What about health issues? Our own mortality may drag our present mindset into the distant future. Hard work is valuable for our well being, but how often do we bring our work life home with us. When we could be taking a relaxing stroll through the park, our thoughts become consumed with that looming Tuesday deadline or the latest gossip we heard in the break-room.
What are the benefits of mindfulness?
Despite our hectic lives and demanding culture, a simple solution is within our reach.
Practicing mindfulness can be good for your body, mind, and soul. Countless studies have highlighted the many benefits of how an active meditative can improve the quality of lives in numerous way including;
lowering blood pressure
In addition to these life-improving remedies, mindfulness can increase our concentration, mend our interpersonal relationships, add depth to our sense of spirituality, and provide solace when we are experiencing bouts of grief or depression.
What are some ways we can practice mindfulness?
Striving to be mindful isn't the pursuit of some kind of obscure esoteric secret. In fact, achieving a state of mindfulness is relatively uncomplicated. Maintaining mindfulness despite all the roadblocks that we already discussed is the part that requires our attentiveness.
“Nothing ever happened in the past; it happened in the now. Nothing will happen in the future; it will happen in the now.” Eckhart Tolle
Focus is the key.
The main component of mindfulness is keeping your focus in the here and now. Focus on what you’re doing whether its doing the dishes or going for a walk. Too often as we do one thing we are thinking about our job or an argument you had yesterday or all of the things on your to do list. When you’re doing your job you’re thinking about that lovely vacation to the Bahamas and when you’re on your vacation you’re thinking about your job.
Focus on the here and now.
Eckhart Tolle wrote a whole best-selling book on this subject: “The Power of Now”
Open your eyes, focus your mind, and pay attention. You might find yourself to be easily distracted. It's exceedingly helpful to take time to smell the roses as cliche as that may sound. Look around you. Take it all in. This Is the world you live in. The senses you perceive it with are your senses.
Acceptance is one key to the puzzle. We may have a tendency to fight the flow of the universe. Things don't always go the way that we want them to. Hurdles are constantly presenting themselves that we need to pause and acknowledge what they are before we can overcome them.
Self-affirmations can help us find the acceptance needed to be at peace with the present situations or circumstances. It takes diligence to step back from everything that is outside our of means control and not give in to the temptation to fix, manage, or control what we see as being out of wack.
This might take the form of finding acceptance in a health difficulty that we must face fearlessly or trusting that the universe will provide when our finances are tight. This isn't to say that we should give up. Far from it. Surrendering to what we can not change takes courage. It's an expression of faith that things aren't ever as bad as they may appear.
Breathing is a rhythmic constant in our lives from the moment we are born till we draw our final breath. Being aware of our breath is a relatively straightforward way for us to gain an awareness of our present.
Breathing exercises can help us to realign our sense of center and remain in the moment. Deep breathing can improve our mental and emotional well-being, reduce stress, increase our stamina, and relieve us from burnout.
Breathing is just one form of bodily awareness. When you sit, lay, or walk you can remind yourself to confront your feelings and truly experience your body's sensations. Draw your focus to your legs when you sit or walk. Attempt to truly feel your skin. How do your muscles feel? When you feel something uncomfortable, don't just dismissively push it away, rather embrace it for everything that it is. Your bodily sensations are your constant tether to the present moment.
Mindfulness, Meditation, and the Journey Forward
Meditation uses a broad range of techniques and exercises to achieve a particular mental or spiritual state. Most practitioners of meditation are aiming for a state of calm or peace. There are many routes to get to that goal. It's not uncommon for someone to clear there mind when engaged in meditation to achieve the desired effect.
Mindfulness could indeed be classified as a form of meditation but instead of emptying the contents of the mind, the mindful person focuses their self-awareness on the present spatial, temporal, and sensory nowness.
Unlike meditation, which may require you to set aside a specific time or place for the practice, mindfulness is something that you can practice every moment of your life. It is always with you because it is innately apart of your existence every moment of the day, with every breath, and every experience.