Mind Full or Mindful?
As technology and modern life races on at a sometimes overwhelming pace, we seem to be faced with a choice between being ‘Mind Full’ or ‘Mindful’. In our hyper stimulated world, it’s becoming increasingly difficult not to get carried away by the incessant interruption to our senses. Mindfulness is a practice for these times, offering a welcome antidote to the noise of the modern day.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness has it’s roots in the early teachings of the buddha but these days is mostly taught secularly, having been popularised in the 1970’s by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who created the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The effectiveness of this eight-week program to lower stress, anxiety and enhance overall wellbeing has been supported by thousands of scientific studies. The MBSR program was based on a buddhist meditation practice called Vipassana, which translates as ‘clear awareness’ or ‘insight’.
Mindfulness is the (not so) simple act of paying attention, being fully present and aware of what we are doing in the moment whilst remaining free of judgement and reaction to what is going on around us. It is imbibed with compassion towards ourselves, whatever is arising in the moment and how we react to what is arising in the moment.
Try watching your thoughts for a day, or even a few hours, using these questions as a guide:
How many times were you unnecessarily drawn to pick up your phone / engage in social media?
How often was your mind FULLY focused on what is happening right now?
How often were you caught up in what is happening around you?
How much time did you spend analysing the past or planning the future?
How often do you notice something – a thought, emotion, or act – without judging it?
You will probably be shocked at the level of distraction and just how busy your mind is. Something as seemingly simple as being mindful in the moment is one of the hardest things for us humans to be.
The good news is that the transition to a more mindful way of being is relatively simple. You don’t need to be part of a formal school or lineage or spend all day in meditation. 5 – 10 minutes a day of focused mindfulness meditation whilst applying mindfulness practice to daily life and situations will help you make the transition from Mind Full to Mindful.
Here are some useful tips to help you find mindfulness in your day from My Method Mindfulness teacher Divya :
Set aside some time and space.
Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. This is easier said than done!
Let your judgments roll by. Make a mental note of any judgments arising and let them pass.
Keep coming back to the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. Mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for the thoughts that come up. Notice when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back, as if you were encouraging a small child back from the road side.
Just keep doing it. The results will accrue.
Mindfulness-based meditation practice
Meditation is an exploration, not a fixed destination. Most meditation practices use a focus on the breath because the physical sensations of the breath is always present and a useful anchor to the moment. You can also focus on sensations in the body, sounds or emotions.
It is common to find yourself getting carried away by thoughts, emotions or sounds. The practice is to bring your awareness back again to the next breath.
A Simple Mindfulness Meditation Practice by Divya
Sit comfortably. Find a spot that gives you a stable, solid, comfortable seat.
Notice what your legs are doing. If on a cushion, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. If on a chair, rest the bottoms of your feet on the floor.
Lengthen through the upper body whilst allowing the natural curvature of the spine.
Notice what your arms are doing. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural.
Soften your gaze. Slightly drop your chin allowing your gaze to fall gently downward. Some people like to close their eyes but it’s not necessary. You can simply see what is there in front of you without focusing on it.
Feel your breath. Bring your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest.
Notice when your mind wanders from your breath. Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t worry. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking. When you notice your mind wandering gently return your attention to the breath.
Be kind to your wandering mind. It’s normal to find your mind wandering constantly. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, observe them without reacting. Just pay attention. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all there is. Come back to your breath over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
Acknowledge any feelings that came up for you, and any sense of spaciousness or expansion. Refrain from diving straight into doing for at least 5-10 minutes (20 would be optimal). The integration after meditation is as imprtant as the meditation itself. This will help the sense of space and stillness you’ve created stay with you throughout your day.
As with all new practices, it would be useful to work with a trained mindfulness meditation teacher to begin with to help you establish your practice and check in with as questions and hurdles arise. Meditating with others, when you can, is also proven to help you stay committed and find a greater sense of wellbeing and healing from the practice.