I regularly get asked this question. Many people comment on it being a fad or far too difficult.
So here goes, perhaps this will clarify a few things.
Mindfulness, the origins
Mindfulness has its roots in ancient practices from all over the world. Thich Nhat Hanh was central to Buddhist practices being introduced to the Western world. Buddhist practices describe two types of meditation, firstly meditation which calms the mind and secondly, the type of meditation that allows a deeper insight and understanding.
Jon Kabat-Zinn was the pioneer who enabled mindfulness to be viewed as a practice for all, without the attachment of religion. Extensive research by the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice has demonstrated the health benefits. Including changes to mental and physical health.
What actually is Mindfulness?
Its stepping off the runaway 'autopilot' train for a while. We can get caught up in living a life where we are not actually present. This results in missing out on the good things, not listening to what our bodies need, and losing sight of what we need and our potential. Its so very easy to live in past events, analysing and trying to untangle things in our minds and also trying to control or anticipate the future can also take up hours and hours of our day. Being able to attend to the moment to moment experience and pay attention to current emotions can have an extraordinarily positive impact on our health and wellbeing.
Mindfulness is giving attention to the experiences happening now, internal bodily sensations and external every day experiences. Rather than always being caught up in a web or thoughts or rushing from one activity to the next, we start to experience pauses and gaps to allow for insight.
What will mindfulness do for me?
When we live in the moment we see things much more clearly. There is a deeper understanding and insight into our lives. This could impact on us by giving more confidence to follow our hearts desires, or perhaps it could reduce the internal suffering we experience when we get caught up in thinking. Challenges will still come and go in your life but you will find yourself responding in different way, a way that is kinder for you and others. Which often results in a challenge being resolved a lot easier.
Having more insight and understanding is something that will benefit every area of your life. When we experience more clarity we tend to make decisions that are healthy and wise and we tend to lead a calmer and more balanced life.
What do I need to do?
To start with just a gentle practice of mindfulness of breathing will work wonders. There are several key considerations to starting this practice. Firstly, the mind will wander when you sit and bring your attention to your breath. Its OK to just acknowledge the thought and come back to focusing on your breath. The more we become preoccupied with the thought or irritated by becoming distracted the further we get from the present moment. Its absolutely OK for your mind to wander, just notice and come back. Secondly, we need to be engaging in this practice for at least 10 minutes every day to reap the rewards.
You can start to be present for all of the activities of your day. Taking a really curious interest in everything from drinking your cup of tea to noticing everything around you when you leave the house will enhance your ability to live here and now. It also makes all activities much more enjoyable, you experience them to a greater extent, with all of your senses.
Consider attending a mindfulness group or meditation meeting. This will support you to develop your practice and get support with queries and initiating your practice of other meditations. Meditating in a group can be a very enriching experience.