In my last blog, I talked about mindfulness and meditation. To recap: both practices aim to focus and clear our minds and help us become calm, efficient and orderly. We can practice informally, through day-to-day mindfulness, and/or formally, through sessions devoted to meditation.
In this blog I’m going to tell you what I’ve learned about how to go about each practice.
First, a warning. Mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight. But, as they say, it will happen. Benefits start appearing within a couple of weeks. It’s exactly like training; you can’t run a marathon immediately but if you run every day, you’ll start seeing progress quite soon. The important phrase here, the one you need to remember, is ‘every day’. Constant practice is the key.
Let’s begin with everyday mindfulness practice. The object is to distance yourself from your mind-chatter, to take your mental temperature, to know how to say ‘stop’ anytime – even in a crisis situation – and by remaining in the moment, make better decisions and avoid doing or saying things you’ll regret. You can practice mindfulness anywhere and any time and once you get the hang of it, you’ll automatically be more mindful in any situation.
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Here’s how it might work. Imagine you’re washing dishes, thinking about a fight you had at work today, or worrying about a bill you need to pay tomorrow. Tell your mind to stop. Concentrate on the physical. Feel your breath, noticing how it moves through your body. Centre yourself, feeling the warmth of the water and the movement of your hands on the dishes. Notice how your body is standing, where you’ve tightened your muscles because of stress. In a few minutes you’ll feel more relaxed, your mind clearer.
Obviously, this description just skims the surface and you’ll find a lot more information on the web, including exercises you can do to help you become more mindful (for examples, see the Greater Good site, above).
Now about the formal practice of meditation. There are hundreds of courses and books on meditation and hundreds of ways to meditate. Here’s just one simple, classic, example:
And that’s all there is to it. Simple? Um, no…actually it’s quite hard. Our monkey minds are so used to bouncing around that it takes time, time, time to even start to bring them into line.
But it does happen and one of my new year’s resolutions is to start my own daily mindfulness journey. And try to practice it when it counts, like really listening to my kids instead of doing three other things at the same time. Life’s too short to not pay attention!
And that brings me – mindfully – wishing you and your family a wonderful and happy festive season and an equally fantastic 2016. It’s hard to believe how quickly this year’s flown by. Let’s join minds, and hearts, and wish for a future filled with happiness and harmony.
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