Just a few years ago, if you’d have mentioned the word ‘Mindfulness’ to me, I would’ve have conjoured up the mental image of a group of ‘hippies’ or devout spiritualists, sitting cross legged for several hours, chanting ‘om’ on repeat… How wrong I was!
Before we talk about how the dictionary defines mindfulness, I want to share with you a scenario that many of you will be familiar with, that defines mindfulness to a T! So hopefully you’ve all been the driver or a passenger in a car before? Imagine that you’re driving to your place of work , you leave your house, get into the car and embark on your journey. You might fiddle with the stereo, shift gear and crack open a window… Then you look up and before you know it, you’ve arrived. You can’t remember turning at the last junction, or giving way to oncoming traffic up the road. You were on autopilot, making your everyday journey without even realising what you were doing. This my friends, is ‘Mindless-ness’ , whereby we don’t fully experience what we are doing. Believe it or not, we live up to 70% of our lives in a state of distraction, whether that’s by other people, media, our phones, or more often than not- our own thoughts! Mindfulness is the art of being present, creating a state of awareness and allowing us to experience each moment.
By being mindful, and allowing ourselves to be more present, we then become more grateful for the little things in life that we would usually take for granted. If we were to use the driving to work scenario again, Being mindful would’ve allowed us to see the beautiful flowers at the side of the road, we might’ve felt the warmth of the sunshine and the calming deep green of the trees. Also from a safety perspective, we would’ve noticed the driver to our right indicating to move into our lane, or the ‘school crossing’ signs up ahead. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to escape the chaos of our minds and brings us into the present moment.
So how exactly can we practice Mindfulness?
The good news is, in so many ways! You don’t have to be an expert at meditation or stillness to live a more mindful life. My guess is that you’re a busy person, juggling lots of balls right now, without lots of ‘extra’ time to be dedicating to a mindfulness practice. The thing I love about mindfulness, is by being more ‘present’ it takes away our thoughts of judgement in situations, helps us to escape self doubt or anxieties and gives us the opportunity to just press ‘pause.’ You can even turn the act of making a cuppa into a mindfulness experience! During my years of teaching mindfulness courses , I have only come across a handful of people who had previous experience of mindfulness, and almost everyone on my courses said before commencing, that they felt stressed, anxious or overwhelmed and would just like to have a better balance in life. Mindfulness can help us achieve this. (And all of my participants have been testimony to this life changing practice!)
My best mindfulness teacher has in-fact been my toddler. As adults, we are constantly rushing everywhere, ticking off our to-do lists , worrying about the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘what could’ve been’s’. I used to take my son to walk to our local shop, and be constantly asking him to hurry up, or to ‘come this way’ and when I started to study mindfulness, I slowly became more aware of what my toddler was seeing. He would spot a single yellow flower in the distance and be overcome with happiness that he had found it. He would stop and watch a squirrel running up a tree, watching its bushy tail wrap around it’s branches at the speed of light. He would crunch the leaves underfoot and jump up and down laughing, as if he was having the best time ever. He was being present, in the moment, fully enjoying his experience, and by being mindful- I was inviting myself to enjoy this experience too. I wasn’t distracted by my phone, or the crippling fear of anxiety that I struggled with. I wasn’t thinking about how I would get the housework done, or the symptoms of depression that I’d already googled 10x that day. I was grateful to be experiencing a moment of pure joy with my son, and it felt like I was free.
Mindfulness has allowed me(and many others) to use my senses to instil a calm and more rational mentality, a hugely optimistic outlook and a far more grateful disposition. Whilst I am a massive advocate for meditation (I can’t believe I used to think it was ‘a load of nonsense!’) , you really don’t need to have any ‘extra’ time for mindfulness, as it can be incorporated into your daily routine, and your current actions. A big part of my course teachings cover ‘self care’ and how mindfulness fit’s into this. Can you remember the last time you actually took a moment to inhale the uplifting aroma of your shower gel, or to feel the cleansing sensation of the water? What about the softness of your fluffy towel , or spent 30 seconds massaging in your face cream with care, instead of a slap dash or rough approach , formed by habit?
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stressed or always thinking about your never-ending to-do list, then Mindfulness could help you find that much needed balance in your life. When I discovered mindfulness and ‘self care’ , I was drowning under the weight of Postnatal depression whilst juggling a sleep-hating baby and a demanding job. I didn’t give myself a second thought, I was low down on the priority list. If I had a spare 5 minutes, it would be spent cleaning up or firing off an email. These days, my five minute windows are often used Mindfully to replenish my body and soul, whether it’s a few deep breaths to ground me, or some time out to listen to the birds singing outdoors, or even getting involved with the play-doh creations and leaving my phone upstairs- It really has changed my life for the better.
One of my favourite quotes that demonstrates the impact of Mindfulness, is by Jon Kabat Zinn (Author and Mindfulness teacher) That reads: ‘You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.’ I translate this as: We cant always control what life throws at us, but we have some control over how we respond or react, and to react mindfully gives us the opportunity to experience calm, relaxation and gratitude!
So in conclusion, Mindfulness isn’t one particular ‘thing.’ It is a state of awareness, that we can achieve with a change in mindset, in a way that works for our own individual circumstances and time constraints. I truly believe that Mindfulness is a life changing practice, a skill that we were all born with, and somehow lost it on our journey to adulthood. To answer my earlier question, ‘Does it really work?’ the answer is ‘Yes.’ Mindfulness can benefit anyone.
For more information on how I can help you to experience the magic of Mindfulness, click here.