What is Mindfulness?
There are several methods, schools and techniques to meditate. But a very approachable method of mediation is Mindfulness Meditation. In fact, Mindfulness is more than a meditation practice, it a way of living in awareness and in the 'present moment.' This excerpt from the Plum Village website of Thich Nath Hanh puts it so beautifully:
'To be mindful is to be truly alive, present and at one with those around you and with what you are doing. We bring our body and mind into harmony while we wash the dishes, drive the car or take our morning shower'.
So if you find yourself with lack of time or a quiet space to sit down for a regular meditation session, Mindfulness practice is a wonderful way to get in touch with your true self. I learnt Mindfulness from Audios and books of Thich Nhat Hanh, a world renowned Zen Buddhist monk, author, teacher and poet. Thich Nhat Hanh has published more than 100 books, many on Mindfulness practices , in several languages and he was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize by Martin Luther King Jr in 1967.
If you are still wondering what it means to be mindful, at any given moment, if you feel your body is there but your mind and thoughts are somewhere else, you know you are not 'mindful' and not fully present in that moment. We so often are either living or replaying our past or running into the future, in our minds. When you consciously practice mindfulness, you touch the present moment, experiencing its blessings.
If you live Mindfully, it will make you more calm, centered and in control of your emotions, increase awareness and focus and be able to manage situations, decisions and relationships better. If not already, you can start incorporating one or two Mindfulness practices and then move towards living more and more mindfully every day. Even if you do not succeed at every attempt, don't beat yourself up for it, being kind to your self and Mindful that you are gradually learning.
Here are some simple ways that we can incorporate Mindfulness in our everyday lives, from the Plum Village website of Thich Nhat Hanh coupled with some of our suggestions:
We are usually always in a frantic hurry to get somewhere or do something. We can make a conscious effort to practice mindful walking during our daily commute or our daily(or lesser) exercise walks, by being fully aware of each step. Feeling the grass or ground under our feet. Feeling our connection with the Earth. Feeling gratitude for our healthy legs that help us reach our destination.
You can take one to three steps for each in-breath and each out-breath and say to yourself either aloud or in your mind,
Breathing in “I have arrived”; Breathing out “I am home”
Breathing in “In the here”; Breathing out “In the now”
Breathing in “I am solid”; Breathing out “I am free”
Breathing in “In the ultimate ”; Breathing out “I dwell”
I am going to directly quote the excerpt from the Plum Village post on Breathing mindfully as it is perfectly explained: "Our breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.
We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.
We may like to recite: “Breathing in I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”
We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life."
MINDFUL EATING & TEA MEDITATION
When we sit down for a meal or just a cup of tea (or coffee as some of us may like it), we can use that time to practice mindfulness. When you eat, are you giving your full attention to your meal or are you preoccupied with all sorts of unrelated thoughts? We can choose to be fully present with our meal, by giving it our undivided attention by noticing the food, its texture, its aroma and savoring the flavors in each bite. For instance, like one of those cookery show judges, minus the judging bit. An added advantage of practicing mindful eating is that we will indirectly avoid overeating and thus avoid excess weight gain.
If you haven't come across this before, you must be wondering how can this be done. Let me explain. As obvious as it may be, let me still warn you, don't try meditation methods involving closing your eyes while driving. In one of Thich Nhat Hanh's audios, he explained this wonderful Mindfulness practice for those of us who drive. Several people commute to work and traffic causes stress and a red signal usually make us whine. He suggests, when we are at a red light, instead of getting upset or frustrated, we can use it as an opportunity to use those few moments to bring our awareness back to our breath. You can notice your surroundings, any trees, flowers, birds or even the clouds and get in touch with life and it’s often taken-for-granted wonders in those few seconds.
This is an example of the miracle of Mindfulness practice, where you can convert each and every moment, regardless of our labels of pleasant or unpleasant, to simply moments of pure awareness.
The sound of a bell can serve as a reminder to be Mindful. Every time you hear a bell, you can pause or stop whatever you are doing and bring your awareness to your breathing.
You can be creative in choosing your mindfulness bell. You can use the ringing of your telephone or mobile, clock chime, the local church bells or mosque prayer or temple bell, the cry of a baby, or even the sound of fire engines and ambulances as 'bells of mindfulness'. With just three conscious breaths we can release the tensions in our body and mind and return to a cool and clear state of being. Who could guess that some sounds that we usually find annoying or distressing can instead serve a reminder to be more mindful?
MINDFULNESS AND MEDITATION APPS
Technology has really been a miracle in many ways, helping us learn and understand about ourselves, expand and explore awareness and consciousness. Check out our special post on Mindfulness and Meditation apps where you can practice anytime and anywhere with ease.
I hope you enjoyed this post and it will help to start you off or contribute to your mindfulness meditation practice.
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