People and magazines talk a lot about mindfulness. The ways to be mindful go from meditating to taking time to notice what is around you with a non-distracted mind. But, what is being mindful? How does one achieve mindfulness?
What being mindful means
The word mindfulness goes around as a buzzword nowadays on the internet, as if it were some kind of guru practice. Many people interpret it as an excuse to do plenty of things shortsightedly – although, that is not what it means. Being mindful is not about going out and living your wildest dreams, it is not about knowing what you want, it is not even about living spontaneously or about knowing yourself perfectly either.
Mindfulness is simply being present. Being with yourself in this very moment, body and mind as one – not one second in the future or ten minutes in the past but now, in the present moment. It is about walking and knowing that we are walking, about noticing our change in position, about reading this article and focusing solely on it – not about implementing it yet, just about diving in, taking it in, while your eyes and mind read this, free of everything else happening around you.
When you are having a conversation, are you 100% in it? Or are you distracted by other thoughts coming and going in your head? Mindfulness is about giving any situation the most of your attention. It is the opposite of multi-tasking which is keeping your head busy with a thousand things while only being able to do one at a time. It is about increasing your present-moment awareness to be able to focus on what is happening in the now.
Change can be stressful and make us anxious. After all, it is scary to change something that is working already. Lots of people put lots of efforts in trying to avoid change altogether. When we practise mindfulness, we realise that only the present moment is truly in our control. This stops us from worrying about anything else since we do not have control over anything else. Ironically, in life, the only thing that is constant is change. Most times we are opposed to it despite the fact that we do not control it. It just happens, hence the importance of knowing that there is nothing we can do, and so that there is no point in worrying about it. Mindfulness will help you embrace change because everything you know is happening now. Only past events make us regret, and future ones make us worry. Let’s free ourselves of that burden and live right now.
Mindfulness is not something you get to achieve, but rather something to continuously train for. Starting from exercising a little every day to using actual situations you find yourself in as sessions to get better at it, the most important thing is to get started – but how?
Meditation is by far the most used practice to improve your present-moment awareness. Leaning into your thoughts and feelings free of judgement, acknowledging them before returning to the rhythm of your breath. Meditation teaches you to be at ease with your emotions by learning about them instead of discarding them. How could you master anything without ever having a look at it? Same goes with your mind. We feel in control of what happens inside it but do we know what is about to pop into our heads and what our next thought is going to be? We cannot control it but we can control our reaction to what happens, by learning to take a step back, to have a look and not to judge what goes on in the mind.
Creating habits to take a step back
Habits control our lives. Finding cues to remind ourselves of coming back to the moment can help a lot with practising mindfulness. Every time you sit down or stand up, take the time to take a deep breath and notice that you just sat down or stood up. When you open a door, notice how you do it. When you enter a new room, take 3 deep breaths. When you grab your phone, close your eyes and take a few breaths before switching it on. Empty your mind and be in control of every action you take. The list can go on, just find something you do every day and make a stop every time the situation occurs.
Use your peripheral vision
Your peripheral vision is impressive. And yet we do not use it, because we do not take time to look at what is in it. Use the following exercise as advised by Aubrey Marcus in his book Own Your Day, Own Your Life.
Look somewhere where things are moving. Either trees in the wind, a road, people walking, etc. Maybe you are just stopped at a red light on your commute, use that time. Look straight ahead and relax your eyes. Notice your breathing. Now try to see in your peripheral vision, noticing what moves outside of the zone you are looking at. After a while, you will feel like you are in control of everything you can possibly see and being able to focus on every part of what is captured by your eyes. All of that, while you breathe. During this exercise, the only thing you are focusing on is the exercise, you are being mindful.
When doing that with trees, you can see every leaf as they fall from every corner in your eyes. It is such a beautiful sight and feeling that it puts you in a zone you will want to go back to. Usually, the beauty of nature is soothing to use for this kind of exercise. Whenever you think of this exercise, do it and practise.
All in all
Practising mindfulness will help you. Your life, your relationships with others and with yourself will improve drastically. You can start easily to practice feeling your breathing, your feet, your arms. Knowing that there is only one place to think about and it is the now.
Do you find yourself in stressful situations because you worry about the future? Are you anxious about change? I would like to hear your take on this.
Do you have another way to work on being mindful?