Mindfully Paying Attention
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
Life can get busy with the fast pace of work, chores, and errands. However, we can still find time to practise mindfulness for more peace and joy. People are concerned with the economy, worry about their finances, and their future. It can cause a lot of stress, which can lead to mood and physical changes. Research shows that many people wish they could slow down and appreciate life more. They feel rushed. They live their life in the fast lane, trying to accomplish their goals and do what they need to get by. Does this describe you?
However, when they get home at night and finish the tasks for the evening, they are beyond exhausted. Many experience burn out. Many deal with anxiety and depressive disorders. Many simply feel like robots, experiencing little to no joy. If you are feeling anything like what I’ve described, I have good news for you. Researchers have been studying the practice of mindfulness on stress, depression and are finding it can decrease negative symptoms and help people to live happier, healthier lives. Mindfulness is booming around the world, as more people are experiencing remarkable changes because of this technique.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is like that—it is the miracle which can call back in a flash our dispersed mind and restore it to wholeness so that we can live each minute of life.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Mindfulness involves being aware of your present thoughts and body functions. It is being “mindful” of your thoughts in the present moment. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has helped this Zen Buddhist meditation technique to gain popularity in recent years. He has conducted extensive research on the effects of mindfulness on stress, emotions, and even chronic pain and illness. Mindfulness has been found to reduce depressive symptoms, lessen chronic pain, help with eating disorders and substance abuse, and reduce anxiety. It works so well that some hospitals are using it as an aid to current therapy.
Remember the days when you were young? You most likely had minor concerns or thoughts running through your mind. Little children are more apt to think less and play more. They are more concerned about exploring their world and living life in the present moment; not feeling bad about their past and not thinking about their future. However, as children grow older, they live in the present moment less and in the past and future more. Their thoughts increase dramatically, they experience more pain and negative emotions, and life gets more difficult. They may wrestle with fear, anxiety or depression and often-times to combat these negative feelings; they reach for things to make them go away. They might experiment with alcohol, relationships, food, work, etc. The problem is, these things don’t make the pain or negative emotions go away, they simply get repressed down deep within their psyche.
By adulthood, plenty of negative thoughts can run rampant in their minds and their moods may reflect that because they have allowed negative thoughts to dominate. They’ve lost touch with the innocent little child who loved to inhabit the present moment and enjoy the simple things in life. Mindfulness meditation can help people stop living in the past and future and enjoy life in the present. It helps you to slow down and relax and enjoy each moment as it comes. As you practise mindfulness, layers of negative thoughts and emotions disappear and you will sense a feeling of freedom, peace, and joy.
How to Practise Mindfulness
“Life is a dance. Mindfulness is witnessing that dance.” — Amit Ray
Practising mindfulness is simple. First, find a quiet place to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and relax every part of your body. Your goal is to stay aware of your present moment experience and forget about the past or the future. As you breathe in and out, focus on your breath. As you breathe in, feel the air entering your lungs. As you exhale, focus on exhaling any negativity within you. As you keep your focus on your breathing, you will NOT be thinking about other things (like the bills that are due). If random thoughts arise (as they will), simply acknowledge the thought and return your focus to your inhale and exhale.
Make time at your convenience every day, to sit and practice mindfulness meditation. In the beginning weeks, try to extend this for 10 to 15 minutes, but after that aim for 30 minutes a day. This may seem like a long time to sit still, but remember, as you are practising mindfulness, you are combating stress, depression, anger, and negative emotions that have plagued your mind for decades. Here’s what you will find as you practise mindfulness. Your days will become brighter. You will be aware of your breathing throughout the day. You will enjoy your present moment experiences. While you’re sitting in traffic for an hour after work, instead of getting angry, you will be at ease, feeling more peaceful and joyful just because you are alive and breathing.
You will be more present with your partner and loved ones. You will engage with people more lovingly. You will be more accepting, less judgemental; more connected with your spiritual self, more compassionate, and more emotionally stable. Begin your mindfulness journey today. Make a commitment to slow down. Begin with a few minutes here and there. Test it out. I think you will be very pleased with the results. After all, we all want to be full of love, peace, and joy, so if mindfulness is a ticket to that state, let’s do it!