Mindfulness is a word we are hearing a lot lately; it is a hot word on the internet, a key word to have on websites and in blogs J as it is one of the most widely googled words. Everyone wants to find out what it is and how they can do it as it is meant to help restore balance and harmony into our lives.
Mindfulness is defined as: the quality or state or being conscious or aware of something. Or, it is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique. (Google 2014)
When I think of the most mindful people I know, two of them are women, two are initiated as Zen Buddhists, two are married to each other, one has consciously trained in the meditative and healing ways and done an awful lot of work on himself and two of them have not done any work or training in yoga or meditation but they happen to be father and son. So, what is it about these people that makes them so mindful?
It is a very simple thing… They stop and pause, taking a moment, before everything they do. That’s all it is. Sometimes the pause may be more than that moment but any longer than a few moments (unless working out some very complicated conundrum) and it turns into overthinking and hesitation, most likely due to fear.
We in the western world live in a fast-paced, electronic, competitive and, sometimes, aggressive world. A lot of the time we have to think on our feet and respond quickly in all manner of situations. Huge mistakes can be made at the push of a button and reckless thought can even be dangerous and life-threatening. Stress levels are high; stress being a major contributing factor to illness and dis-ease.
So, how can mindfulness help and, more to the point, how do we do it? How do we remember to take that moment to pause? Mindfulness is again, very simply, being present; “turning up” in each moment, being conscious and fully feeling, using all the senses: touch, taste, sight, hearing and smell. I believe that mindfulness also employs the sixth sense, tuning into the intuition, though I believe this is done quite naturally and automatically. Certainly it would be helpful if one were to meditate regularly; meditation is also helpful in all areas of our well-being. I believe that all of my group of mindful people meditate regularly but some of them (at least two) don’t consciously sit in meditation for any length of time, they are naturally in a meditative state most of the time. The psychologist Maslow would call them self-actualising people, having worked their way up the hierarchy of needs until their needs are few and they have transcended earthly cares and worries.
So, meditating is a start. Also, a good place to start is when you’re eating. Turn off the television, the radio, even music. In some countries eating is a time of socialising and merriment, but this is not conducive to mindful eating. Eating mindfully means only to focus on the matter in hand (or in the mouth). It means to fully be in the experience, tasting the food, savouring each bite and the feel of it in your mouth and when you swallow. Then something magical happens… Each meal becomes the best you have ever had, the flavours expand the experience and you find pleasure in each moment.
Over the last few years, particularly since the Yuppie-fueled eighties, when lunch was for wimps, to be able to multi-task has been deemed a valuable thing. But recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is actually bad for our health, due to the increase in stress levels. It is far better to focus on one task at a time, to focus on one thing at a time, to bring our focus in to whatever is happening in that moment, to pause, to think, to connect. This is mindfulness.
Westerners are tired; tired of the rat race, tired of working ever harder just to survive. More and more people are looking to downsize, stepping back from the battle to survey their lives to see what truly makes them happy. As, after all, aren’t we here to be happy? This is why mindfulness has become so key in the search engines of our lives. It encourages us to be in the moment, to live for the now, to take that pause, to think, to reflect, to know our values, to follow and trust our intuition, to really hear ourselves and others, to put down our smart phones and to really live our lives. To turn up.