I am loving my daily yogasana and yoga nidra routine at the moment and would totally recommend it in a second, but I also know that it doesn't appeal to everyone. You may have heard mindfulness being thrown around all over the place though.
Mindfulness is currently 'in vogue' with the NHS to help combat OCD, depression and other anxiety disorders. Mindfulness features heavily in Buddhism. But what it is? And do you need a teacher for it?
The mindfulness Definition:
Mindfulness is the practice of being present, all the time. This means not focusing on the past or future or even what's going on later in the day but solely on what is happening in this very moment. By doing this, mindfulness releases you from worry or stress because worry and stress are normally brought about by a focus on what has happened or what may happen in the future. It is a form of waking meditation whereby you meditate whilst functioning normally in everyday life.
Where Mindfulness came from:
Mindfulness originated in the East as part of Buddhist many many years ago. Now that it's in the West, there are many teachers of mindfulness and to be honest, I can't tell you how useful they are because I've never used one. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't.
The benefits of mindfulness:
I've said above the most important benefit is that being present means you don't really have anything to worry about - sounds awesome right? Practising mindfulness has shown to have a whole heap of benefits off the back of this including:
- Decreased stress i.e. reduced blood pressure, cholesterol, headaches, tensions, better sleep etc
- Sense of well-being and calm
- Better clarity and awareness
- Better concentration and focus
- Being able to cope better with problems
You get my drift - it's good stuff.
Beginners guide to mindfulness (as in, step 1, 2 and 3):
- Don't force or expect anything from this practice. Let it come of its own accord. You will have good moments and bad moments. The good news is, when you're only focusing on the moment in hand, you don't have to worry about the 20 before.
- Begin at the beginning. Although it sounds easy, it takes time and practise. Allow yourself this. Start being mindful for small chunks of the day, whenever you remember, maybe just for a couple of minutes at a time, but at least every day, and build from there.
- Whilst mindfulness should become a practice you do whilst doing other things i.e. all the time, to begin with, take five minutes a day to sit quietly and focus only on that. Find yourself a comfortable position (preferable not lying down as there's a tendency to drift off or fall asleep) and set a countdown timer on your phone (or use a cooking timer) for however long.
- You will need to stay still. Do not move or fidget. This is why we start with only two to five mins. The modern body is not used to staying still. If you start to feel discomfort, simply bring your awareness to it but try to be objective - accept the discomfort and watch it, observe it, do not identify with it (that's my pain, I'm in pain etc). Obviously if you really can't stand it then move but next time set a shorter time fame for yourself so you don't have to.
- For the five minutes, watch the breath. Notice how you breathe, in and out. Don't make commentary or judgements on it, just be aware, every moment, of how the breath is flowing in and out of the body. Watch it. Become the observer.
Step five is actually the best tip I give anyone who asks me what to do when they get stressed / scared / upset [insert negative emotion here]. It sounds so simple that most people don't even bother with it but it works. Give it a try.
Mindfulness won't change your life overnight, but make it a habit and I guarantee it will. I never guarantee things (take a look back at my posts) but this is the most simple yet powerful thing you can do for your well-being.
Share your thoughts and experiences below - I want to hear how you're doing! :-)
N.B. Cross-posted to my blog