Monday, 16 January 2012
Tuesday, 10 January 2012
There is a lot of interest in the media at the moment in mindfulness. Many articles are written about its benefits, and many websites are out there to reinforce the message. But in simple terms, what is mindfulness and how does it help?
Mindfulness is simply the practice of bringing present moment awareness to the present moment. In other words we approach the situation we are in without the baggage that we carry from our past or the expectations that we have for the future. In his seminal book Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes how our minds appear to us when we begin to pay them attention – ‘ you will probably find that there is a great deal of mental and emotional activity going on beneath the surface. These incessant thoughts and feelings can drain a lot of your energy. They can be obstacles to experiencing even brief moments of stillness and contentment’. Kind of stating the obvious, most of us know this, but what most of us don’t know is how to calm this chatter, to contain it, bring clarity and a fresh outlook to situations, this is where mindfulness comes in.
Unfortunately, for those of us who like a quick fix changing our auto pilot response, or calming relentless mental chatter, requires commitment and practice. Mindfulness is gained through experiential learning, through a regular practice where distractions are put to one side and time is given to understanding and developing a more mindful way of being. Just as you can have any number of cookbooks on your shelves, and any number of ingredients in your cupboards, unless you bring the two together, physically engaging in the task, nothing will ever get made, and you will never get to experience the chocolate cake, the beef and ale casserole or the simple salad, you will just have an idea of what it could taste like. Such is mindfulness, you can read the books, listen to the cds, or even occasionally sit and give some time to practice, but only by embracing a dedicated and regular practice can you truly begin to reap the benefits.
This commitment to exploring mindfulness is never a chore, you can give it 5 minutes a day, 20 minutes a day, or even longer, the important fact is the need to give it quality attention. Nature hasn't designed us to fail, so any steps that we make towards improving our health, are rewarded quickly. So before you take the leap of buying another book or downloading a podcast, pick up your diary and pencil in a few minutes each day, become familiar with the pattern of your life, book yourself in to just be with yourself. When you can see that it is possible to bring a 5 minute slot into your day, you are ready to begin.
Over the next few weeks, I will be exploring ways in which mindfulness can become part of daily life.
Ref: Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn, ISBN 0749915854