Mindfulness - Living in the Moment
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originated in Eastern meditation practices. It has been described as 'bringing ones complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to moment basis' and as ' paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment and non judgementally'.
Mindfulness is about living in the moment. It involves being aware and focused on whatever we are doing at the moment but it goes a bit further than that. Mindfulness involves deliberately noticing the sensations and our responses to those sensations.
If you take an activity like driving a car it is very easy to be aware that you are driving but for your thoughts and attention to be on everything but what you are actually doing. How often have you recognised where you are on a journey but had no recollection of how you got there? Our thoughts go unchecked. We only bring them back to what we are doing when our attention is forced back by a decision or a difficult situation. For most of the journey, particularly if it's a familiar, one we can be on automatic pilot. Mindfulness means focusing on what we are doing: the physical sensations, our thoughts and emotions. It means focusing on our destination and travelling purposefully.
Living in the moment
If we let it our mind goes off in all sorts of wild directions. We think about everything but what we should be focused on. We are preoccupied with worries, fears, slights and concerns. We worry about things that have happened, things that might happen or things we want to happen but are afraid might not. We think about everything but living in the moment, focusing on what we are doing here and now. And the worries, concerns and fears that we are replaying in our heads don't help us. They make us unhappy and depressed.
We can't change the past and the future hasn't happened yet. The one thing we can do something about is the present. So that's where our attention needs to focus. We can't block out our thoughts about the past or the future but the practice of mindfulness means noticing that's where our thoughts are, recognising how they impact on our current situation and bringing ourselves back to the present moment. Living in the moment we are less likely to be pulled in all directions by our wayward emotions. We reduce their influence over us, enjoy a new freedom and become calmer and more content.
Mindfulness is non judgemental
By recognising and taking note of our emotions we free ourselves from them. We don't get upset when we experience something we didn't want to or don't enjoy something in the way we wanted to. We simply note what is happening and move on. "We simply accept whatever arises. We observe it mindfully. We notice it arising, passing through us and ceasing to exist. Wheather its a pleasant experience or a painful experience we treat it the same way." We can be aware that some experiences are good and some not but we train ourselves not to react.
Practicing mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness is a practice we should cultivate and take into our daily lives but setting time aside for meditation helps us to develop and practice the technique.
1. Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
2. Sit comfortably and focus on your breathing. Build a gentle rhythm. Notice the sensation as the breath enters your lungs and is gently released again.
3. Focus on each part of your body in turn - relaxing in turn: your eyes, your shoulders, your hands, your feet.
4. Notice thoughts as they come into your head but don't focus on them. Let them go. Return your attention to the gentle in and out of your breathing.
5. Concentrate on the moment, on awareness of yourself and your bodily sensations. Let everything else go.
7. Practice daily. 10 mins will be sufficient to begin with. Build to 20 mins as you become more comfortable.
Take the practice of mindfulness into everything you do. Focus gently on whatever you are doing through the day. Don't be too hard on yourself.