What is Mindfulness?
You may have heard of it as everyone seems to be talking about it. Even the NHS. For once, it indeed is good news. As the pace of our lives increases, every minute details become more important than ever and it becomes important that we are ever more vigilant and can react to events around us quickly. Put simply, mindfulness is knowing how to be mindful in each moment of your life. Just look around you. Friends sitting together, chatting, but also having a conversation with others on social media, students physically in the class but mentally miles away, people in the meeting with blank faces – showing little interest in the proceeds, but busy ‘catching up’ on their emails. The result is, we are ‘neither here nor there’. We do not pay enough attention to the present and we are busy planning for the future or lamenting over our inattentiveness in the recent past. Being mindful does not mean shunning away distractions. It means, being “mindful of the distractions and intensifying our presence to the moment, stilling ourselves to absorb it, instead of escaping it or trying to alter it, through thought or action “Christophe Andre” When we pay attention a little more closely to the way our own mind actually worksdoing meditation or just being still, we see that we live more in our past or future then present. Why is mindfulness great in every aspect of our life? As a health coach, I use Mindfulness extensively with my clients. more so with professionals who work in corporates or run their own businesses. Being mindful is like checking our own body and seeing how it is inside us. It helps a person to know themselves better and has a positive impact on everything connected with them: their work environment changes, their relationship with people, stress level decrease and their health improves. It is not a magic bullet. A lot of issues that we face stems from the fact that we consciously/unconsciously ignore the factors that contribute to it. And hence, the best place to begin a cleansing is from yourself.
Ask yourself, a. Why are you facing challenges at your workplace? What is it that you can do to improve it? b. Why does someone dislike you? What can you change in yourself to help that person like you? c. What is causing you stress? What’s one thing you can do about it?
Arriving at the answers to the questions is not always easy. Humans have this ability to negate, disregard things that they do not like. While you may ask the right questions, your mind may still not provide the correct answer. That is where you may need the help of a trained coach to help you come to reality with the real issues leading to your current predicament (you may not even realise that you have an issue!).
Why do you need to inculcate mindfulness in your life? Being mindful has a significant impact on your personality. Suddenly you are not the victim, but perpetuator. You realise that a lot of (unsavoury) things happening around you are also due to you and it is within your reach to impact it. Having this knowledge gives you confidence and a positive attitude. How does being mindful help?
• Non-judging – We are less likely to be trapped in our own opinion and ideas, likes and dislikes. It gives us an opportunity to see things as they are rather then painting the way we want or seeing through lenses. This can help us to bring peace within us, be less stressed as we are not judging people and events constantly. One of the activities that we do in mindfulness is deep breathing. When you are practicing breathing our mind immediately indicates its boring, or you will not be able to do it. It will help us to be less judgmental, surrendering to what comes up and knowing our own judgmental thoughts.
Patience – We cultivate patience toward our own mind and body when practicing mindfulness. For example, you may want to lose weight and you are being very diligent about it, yet, despite your consistency and diligence you cannot see the results. If you are mindful, you give yourself room of these experiences because that is the reality of the moment. On the contrary, when we are less mindful, we would jump from one regime to another, from one coach to another in frantic search of results and at the end, give up as nothing seems to be working for you. It is a good practice to have discipline in our life, and just not filling our moments with activity. It’s like giving time to ourselves like a caterpillar which become butterfly in its own time.
• Beginner’s mind – We are often blinded by our own beliefs or myth of knowing everything. In this belief, we tend to miss opportunities to learn new things. We miss to know or learn things and in this process, sometime we miss the smallest meaningful moments too. An open “beginner’s mind” allows us to be receptive to new possibilities and prevents us from getting stuck in the rut of our own expertise, which makes us believe we know more than we do. No moments, no experiences in life is same and this is what we learn if we have beginner’s mind.
• Trust – trust your own intuition and your instinct. In mindfulness, you learn to take responsibility of your own actions, you learn to listen and trust your own being. If you trust yourself, it becomes easier to trust others and discover something unique and good in them.
• Non-striving – In this age everything we do has a purpose or a goal. So, suggesting someone not to do that will sound foolish. But if you are in a mindfulness practice or meditation this attitude may block you. To do nothing is the hardest. People realise this when they sign up for stress management (which is based on mindfulness). During stress management, the clients are asked to identify 3 goals they want to work on in their program. And then, to their surprise, they are asked to do nothing on those goals for the next 8 weeks. So, for example, if they want to lower their blood pressure or anxiety they are asked not to take away anything from their diet or routine, but to remain in present at it is. With practice when you calm down, you are in present moment and slowly with patience and practice, your movement happens towards goal.
• Acceptance – Acceptance means accepting things, yourself as they are. If you are overweight and you hate yourself for that, acceptance will teach you to love yourself as you are, whatever weight or size you are in. Now is the only time you have so develop self-compassion and intelligence that is inside us and bring the relevant transformation that is needed.
• Letting go – Cultivating the attitude of letting go or being non-attached. It is fundamental to mindfulness practice. There are thoughts which we categorise as good or bad. We want to prolong the good thoughts and we want to protect ourselves from feelings or experiences which is painful, frightening and unpleasant. Letting go is accepting things as they are, sans judgment. When we do this, we rest in awareness. The perfect example is every night when we go to bed. If your mind is not able to shut down, it is the first sign of elevated stress. If you can sleep easily, you know how to let go of ‘things’. Being aware and practicing that in waking situation is very helpful. It has been proven conclusively, that the practice of mindfulness helps people feel productive, and less stressful and helps improve concentration. Working with my clients I have also observed they gain better health, body-image, and their relationship at work and home improves. Mindfulness is increasingly being used in many hospitals, prisons and care homes and has shown amazing results.
Bio: Archna Mohan is a holistic lifestyle coach and CHEK practitioner who has been working in the health industry for over 20 years in the areas of mind-body healing, relationship management and health and wellness. She is a frequent blogger on health and wellness issues on her personal blog pages. Archna can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org