The term “mindfulness” has been kicking around for a while now but it has taken until very recently for me to explore what it actually is. This is in part because I thought it was about thinking through things and my mind is busy enough as it is and partly due to the fact that I think that “mindfulness” sounds like a made up word.
I first heard the term when I was at a course on grant making and the person taking the course was very upbeat, cheery and engaging and he recommended everybody try mindfulness because it works wonders. To be honest though, at the time I thought it was just one of those new hippy fads that would breeze over quick enough; however, with more and more research highlighting the mental health benefits of it I could no longer deny it’s validity, so I investigated.
Mindfulness is based around the key principle of living in the now. Now I know that most people think they are but when you look closely are you really? Do you get a lot of those times when you have no idea what has been going on in the conversation because you have been caught up in your own thoughts? Or have managed to get somewhere without noticing any of the landmarks, wildlife or people? I’m sure the answer to both of those is yes, I know it certainly is for me. As a people we spend a lot of time in our heads thinking through past events, future possible events and about anything else we can dream up. In doing this we drum up unnecessary worries which drag us down. If we lived in the moment we would feel our emotions at that point; we would feel, see, smell, the real world around us. We would lose those constant nagging worries that we, more often than not, can’t do anything about. How do we push all of these thoughts to the side though?
Professor Williamson, one of the key players in the development and continuation of mindfulness used a metaphor of a bus station, I am going to relay a form of it but using a train station instead because I like the pun, train of thought. You can be at a train station without getting on every train. You might look at them all, read the number and the destinations but you will only get onto the one that leads you where you need to go, otherwise you will waste a lot of time. Similarly in life you can feel a train of thought come to you but you can just look at it recognise it and move on, you don’t need to get on it. Contrary to my thinking that mindfulness would take too much of my time up it is actually saving me time.
Meditation is a key part of the mindfulness ideology. The form of meditation used here is normally a kind used to explore emotions and personal reactions. This allows you to better understand yourself and what can evoke certain emotional and physical reactions. Although I haven’t read anything that mentions a mind clearing meditation as a part of the mindfulness process, I would personally recommend doing some.
Finally Yoga is also mentioned as a key player in the process. This section also links in with previous research that shows that exercise has a positive effect on the mind.
Mindfulness may at first be tricky to take in and apply but I sense that once started it will just become natural to experience the world around us and not be constantly enveloped by our minds. Minds are incredibly powerful things and at times more powerful that reality, especially in time of distress. This could be because in time of distress we recede inside ourselves, apparently to protect us but what we don’t realise is, it is frequently our mind’s over active abilities that is heightening, even causing this distress.
Feel the wind on your skin, notice your breathing, live.