Mindfulness

You're likely to have heard of Mindfulness whether or not you've ever practiced meditation. It's recently exploded in Western culture, especially among celebrities, and is growing in popularity within everyday life.

Mindfulness, in general, is altering the state of consciousness and bringing focus to the ‘present’, with an interest in what is happening here and now rather than yesterday or tomorrow. Much in the same way breathing meditation keeps us focused on ourselves, mindfulness meditation similarly helps us stay ‘present’ and not allow external influences to alter our thoughts.

Mindfulness meditation is unique because instead of using techniques to take us to a particular place or achieve a desired outcome, it simply lets us ‘be’ as we already are. How often do you actually allow yourself to just ‘be’? We are frequently concerned with a number of interconnecting tasks, such as trying to look a certain way, trying to ‘fit in’ or busying our minds with shopping lists and money matters. Mindfulness meditation takes away those heavy burdens and encourages us to ‘sit with’ whatever it is we ‘are’.

Mindfulness meditation can be especially helpful in times of grief or pain. When we are in pain, we do whatever possible (as an instinct) to relieve the pain in some way. This could be through prescription pills, alcohol, talking to friends, becoming angry, inviting denial or ignoring it altogether. When we grieve (and everyone grieves at some stage), we cope by making excuses, trivializing, withdrawing, distracting or blaming, in order to make some sense of the loss.

It was Buddha who initially paved the way for mindfulness practice. He realized that materials and riches did not cause happiness. He believed attachment to the superficial only increased misery and disappointment. It was only when he lived day to day, with limited resources and only his own inner self for company that he managed to achieve enlightenment.

Mindfulness meditation encourages us to sit with the feelings we have. Instead of trying to make the feelings into something else, it enables us to sit with the raw helplessness of the situation. You may be wondering what good that does. Surely we want to suffer less, not more? But only when we allow ourselves to feel the present moment can true acceptance be cultivated.

It's not just in times of extreme difficulty that mindfulness is helpful. It can be of assistance to everyday life. Have you ever had an argument with a friend or loved-one that started at point A and quickly escalated to point Z? Neither of you may have any awareness as to why that happens. But when mindfulness is introduced, all of the influencing thoughts and feelings about that person can be heard, accepted and forgiven. In day to day life we hold onto memories that can impact on the way we treat one another, and by living in the ‘now’ rather than in the past, there will be more open ground for growth.

This style of meditation is not dissimilar to breathing meditation. It can be incorporated with the breathing techniques learned in the previous chapter.

Again, a quiet, undisturbed room with warmth and safety is the best place to sit. This meditation can be quite powerful and often overwhelms less practiced sitters, so it's good to start with small doses. Some people like to set up a particular space where pictures and objects can be pinned to a wall or placed in front of them. These pictures or objects should be symbolic of whatever is happening in the present moment.

A good tip to get started is: Try not to judge yourself. As you sit in mindfulness, there may be some difficult and challenging feelings that arise from the session. Don't squash these or judge them for being there. By giving our feelings non-judgemental attention, it'll become easier for healing and accepting ones self.

Mindfulness can be applied to anything. The way we communicate, the words we choose, our presentation, the friends we keep, the relationships we nurture, our health, our spending, our parenting techniques – everything has the potential to be improved through mindfulness. But remember that being mindful is not a substitute for actually participating in the real world. No form of meditation or spiritual practice should ever remove the participant from reality or make it difficult to engage in normal social situations. In fact, the outcome should be, the more mindful we are, the more compassionate and thoughtful our actions become.

This wonderful thought-selection will allow you to feel more in control, accepting, proportionate and loving.