Search the term ‘mindfulness’ on Google and you’ll get the following definitions:
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
At the end of last year I took part in a short course on mindfulness. It was essentially a 4-week introduction to mindfulness, what it is and how to incorporate some mindfulness techniques into our everyday lives.
It was a small diverse group of participants, maybe 15 of us in total, gathered in dance studio on plastic chairs. Young and old, seemingly from a range of walks of life, we were all there for one thing – to figure out a way to cope.
Modern life is frantic, busy, overwhelming. The expectations we place on ourselves is huge. The feeling that society places unfair expectations on us is intense. Whatever the circumstances, as a group learning about mindfulness, we all felt a heavy weight within our minds.
Whatever the circumstances, as a group learning about mindfulness, we all felt a heavy weight within our minds.
For those 4 short sessions we took our time to embrace a new way, new techniques, and new approach to our own mind.
I left each session in a state of contemplation. Some things worked for me, others didn’t. But in the end, I felt my short course was an ideal way to move into a more mindful way of living my life.
6 Things I learned from a 4-week mindfulness course:
1. Mindfulness = meditation
I have practiced meditation in the past and mindfulness is pretty much the same thing. Generally, both terms are used to describe the practice of trying to calm the mind. The difference is that mindfulness focuses on the ‘now’, whereas meditation, or meditative states, can be achieved through a number of activities.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Unless you’re the next guru it’s going to take A LOT of practice to get this mindfulness malarky perfect. For the longest time I was hard on myself for not being able to completely clear my mind. But that’s not exactly an achievable, nor fair, goal to have. The art of mindfulness is in fact the practice.
Sure, you mind might drift off to what you’re having for tea tonight, or that pesky deadline you have coming up … but if you are being mindful you can spot your mind drifiting and practice bringing it back to the hear and now.
3. Mindfulness can be conscious
The essence of mindfulness is being aware of the ‘here and now’. Therefore, you don’t need to close your eyes or sit cross legged. You can practice mindfulness by bringing your mind into the present moment and being aware of your surroundings, your feelings, your body, everything that is right now.
4. Many approaches
Mindfulness is about focus. Whether that is being totally aware as you eat, tasting each bite and noticing each flavour and texture. Or it could be feeling the entire motion of your feet as you walk, with each bone and muscle moving to help make the foot work. The ability to focus on something in particular helps calm the mind.
5. Breathing is the starting point
Breathe is life. Therefore it totally makes sense that focusing on breathing is the starting point for any kind of mindfulness practice. It immediately takes you into the present moment.
6. Awareness is the game-changer
Mindfulness is about awareness, the present moment and calming the mind. The awareness, in particular, is a total game-changer if you suffer with anxiety or high levels of stress.
I have incredibly busy, active mind. I find myself thinking a million different things at once and this can lead to overhwhelm. Add to this my mind is often working through ‘what ifs’ scenarios, decision-making, relationship analysis – the result is total burnout, or total ineffectiveness.
By embracing awareness, just one slight shift in mental state, and I feel the immediate benefits of mindfulness.
Have you tried any mindfulness practices before?
What worked well for you?
I look forward to sharing more about mindfulness journey with you in future.