In a world of materialism and sensory overload it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the ups and downs of life. Mindfulness can help to develop a more balanced state of mind as well as enriching our experiences.
Being mindful is an attitude. It consists of awareness and emotional detachment. We need to be aware of the world around us and the reactions (both physically and mentally) that these create. With an awareness of the things around us we learn to accept situations without becoming too emotional attached. We can develop good habits of reacting calmly to situations without getting stressed. We learn to let go and observe objectively so that we can accept and enjoy each moment.
What is Being Mindful?
To understand mindfulness we need to look at three aspects. The breathing, the physical actions of the body and mental thoughts of the mind (along with the emotions they bring).
The breath is what ties us to our living existence. It connects our body and mind. Yet usually we are unaware of our natural respiration. Being mindful means focusing our attention on natural breathing without trying to change or control it. The subtle movement of breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. The way it changes in depth and speed depending on our thoughts and actions. Just be aware of your breathing and observe it objectively.
As we do simple tasks we can focus on the actions of the body. See how each physical movement flows from start to finish and then merges into the next one. Be aware of each step of our feet on the ground when walking. Be aware of each piece of food being taken and delivered to our mouth when eating.
The mind is never dormant. It generates thought after thought continuously and without control. Thoughts can be pleasant or unpleasant and as we dwell on these thoughts our emotions will react accordingly. Observe the thoughts as they come and go without forming emotional attachment to them.
As we understand the main components of being mindful we can apply these to daily situations.
Imagine you are driving and stuck in traffic. Or you are waiting for a train that has been delayed. It is easy to dwell on the situation and get yourself stressed. Fume about how inefficient the transport system is. Curse at the driver in front who won't move faster.
Bring your attention back to the present moment. Be aware of your natural breathing and the irritated emotions growing within. Do not form attachments to these negative thoughts. Allow them to come and go. Observe them objectively and they will gradually fade away. It is like observing a burning camp fire. If we don't feed the flames with fuel it will slowly dissipate into the night.
With a calmer and balanced mind we can view the situation more objectively. Accept the factors that are not under our control. This mindful approach will help us to focus on the present moment and channel our mind into a more practical and fruitful direction.
We are having a discussion with our partner our colleagues. We share different opinions on the issue. As the conversation develops we become more and more ingrained in our viewpoint. Feelings of resentment and anger build up. Why can't they see my way of thinking? Why do they argue with me?
Take a moment to focus on your breathing. Observe these thoughts building up. The negatively and emotions are not helping to resolve the situation. Bring yourself to a more balanced mind. Let go of the anger. Observing the situation objectively we may be able to find a common ground or accept the differences of each other's opinion.
Nobody likes to experience minor physical discomfort or pain. Perhaps a temporary throbbing headache or back pain. Or we may be walking outside, drenched in sweat from the heat of the day.
There are two aspects to our pain or discomfort. One is the physical whether it is in the form of a throbbing, pulsing or itching feeling. The other more subtle aspect is the negative mental reaction to our discomfort. We can get wound up in thoughts that escalate our pain. Why am I having this pain again? Oh dear - I won't be able to enjoy my day because of this. These negative thoughts will only compound our pain and discomfort.
Focus only on the physical sensations themselves without getting caught up in the mental. Observe and be aware of the pain or discomfort. Do not form attachment to it. It is a passing phenomenon that arises and eventually passes away. As we train our mental approach to be mindful of its physical form we do not blindly react to it.
Mindful in Daily life
Practitioners use meditation as a way to develop mindfulness. This provides ideal conditions. The mind is at its quietest and easiest to control when the body is still. The eyes are closed and we take a temporary break from external sensory distractions.
However, being mindful is not just a single activity that we practice. It is an attitude of awareness we develop. It is a skill that one develops through regular practice. It becomes easier as we gradually change the habit patterns of the mind. The more we can adopt this awareness in our lives the more we can benefit.