2 min read
What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is an ancient eastern practice and has a place in our lives today. It is simple, and it means paying attention in a particular way: in the present moment.

 It is a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells in fact anything we might not normally notice. The actual skill is simple but because it is so different to how our minds normally work, it takes a lot of practice. 

Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we do not normally notice, because our heads are too busy in the future or in the past - thinking about what we need to do or going over what we have done.

Being mindful helps us to train our attention. Our minds wander about 50% of the time, but every time we practice being mindful, we are working our attention "muscle" and becoming mentally fitter. We can take more control over our focus of attention and choose what we focus on...rather than passively allowing our attention to be dominated by that which distresses us and takes us away from the present moment. Mindfulness might simply be described as choosing and learning to control our focus of attention.

Sometimes we drive for miles on “auto pilot,” without really being aware of what we are doing. In the same way, we may not be really “present,” moment-by-moment, for much of our lives: We can often be “miles away” without knowing it.

By becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings, and body sensations, from moment to moment, we give ourselves the possibility of greater freedom and choice; we do not have to go into the same old “mental ruts” that may have caused problems in the past. 

Mindful Activities

When washing the dishes of an evening, we might be in our head with our thoughts, worrying about the future or thinking about the past. Instead of doing that tried to think about the water on your hands, the bubbles in the sink and how the bubbles sound. Just take a mental note of things we normally just get on with. 

A mindful walk brings new pleasures. Walking is something most of us do every day. Rather than be "in our heads", we can look around and notice what we see, hear and smell. We might notice the sensations in our own body just through the act of walking. Noticing our breathing. Thoughts will still pop up, but we can just notice them, and then bring our attention back to our walking. The only aim of mindful activity is to bring our attention back to the activity.

 Mindful Breathing

The primary goal is a calm, nonjudging awareness, allowing thoughts and feelings to come and go without getting caught up in them. This creates calmness and acceptance. Sit comfortably, with your eyes closed and your spine straight. Direct your attention to your breathing. When thoughts, emotions, physical feelings, or external sounds occur, simply accept them, giving them the space to come and go without judging or getting involved with them. When you notice that your attention has drifted off and is becoming caught up in thoughts or feelings, simply note that the attention has drifted, and then gently bring the attention back to your breathing. It is ok and natural for thoughts to arise, and for your attention to follow them. No matter how many times this happens, just keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

 Just remember you cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.

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