Are you a sceptic?
Mindfulness has become a bit of a ‘buzz word’ recently and the benefits of meditation are now well researched. Whilst I whole heartedly agree with spreading the message of health and wellbeing sometimes the things that are required of us to stay healthy can become overwhelming in themselves!!
Many people I meet tell me that whilst they understand the benefits of meditation there are things that they find very challenging about it. Two of the most common frustrations are –
“I can’t stop my thoughts” and “I don’t have time to meditate.”
So, let me put your mind at rest – pardon the pun!
The aim is not to try and STOP your thoughts, that would be impossible! The aim is to learn to watch your thoughts and re- discover that part of yourself that innately knows self-control and self-regulation.
Do you need to get up at 5am and sit cross legged on the floor for hours to get the benefit?? Noooooo!
Yogi’s have understood the benefits of meditation for centuries and scientific research is now showing the enormous benefits of short amounts of meditation each day. So, as well as being documented in the ancient Yogic scripts, scientific research papers around the world advocate meditation for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
So what do people mean by “living mindfully?”
Meditation helps us live more mindfully which puts the body in a state of ease and renewal.
Manifests as: being on automatic pilot, feeling distracted, busy-ness & frenetic activity
Manifests as: having control and clarity, feeling composed, focussed attention & calm purpose
Effects on the body, mind and behaviour: Raised heart rate, elevated blood pressure, strained digestive system, rapid breathing, degeneration of cells, feeling overwhelmed, elevated anxiety, headaches, forgetfulness, muscular tension, frustration, lack of joy, disconnected from others, body under pressure and ageing fast.
Effects on the body, mind and behaviour:
Normal or resting heart rate, normal blood pressure, easy digestive process, normal respiratory rate, regeneration of cells, control of anxiousness, clear mind, physical relaxation, acceptance, feelings of happiness and connection to others, body working efficiently and regenerating.
So, if you’re not up for a 5am start and some disciplined meditation practice how about introducing some mindful moments into your day so that you can be supporting your health and wellbeing whilst going about your daily activities.
Our senses are receiving information moment by moment and sending it to our brains in a continuous flow. Seeing, tasting, touching, hearing, smelling are sensual experiences that can anchor us in the present moment.
Your wise Grandmother knew what she was talking about when she said ‘stop and smell the roses!”
If you were to take the time to stop and fully see, feel and smell a rose without distraction, engaging fully with the experience, it would be a mindful moment, or a moment of meditation at which point your nervous system is soothed and new neural pathways of calm, composure begin forming in the brain.
Another great time to practice being ‘mindful’ is when you’re cleaning your teeth! It’s quite a challenge to clean your teeth and remain fully present with the experience without your mind chatting away about something completely unrelated. Give it a go!
And then of course there’s the washing up…
Can you be ‘mindful’ as you wash the dishes? Noticing the temperature and feel of the water and the soap on your hands. Listening to the sound of the running tap and noticing the feelings and sensations in your hands and arms as you hold and wash the dishes.
You can practice being mindful every moment of the day, whatever you happen to be doing – these are simply great starting points. Bring your attention to your body and breath being fully present with the task at hand, simply notice when your mind becomes distracted and without frustration or judgement simply bring your attention back to the task and the present moment and reap some of the rewards of living mindfully.
Meditation is the formal practice whereby we train the mind to become focussed on the present moment, from where we watch the random meanderings of the mind and learn to rest, physically, mentally and emotionally in a place of observation or “awareness.” Why? Because most of our worries, stresses and anxieties come from our minds tendency to project into the future and ruminate about the past. When we become adept at noticing when this is happening we can choose a healthier, happier more productive train of thought. This enables us to go out into the big wide world and live our lives in a more focussed, calm, composed and relaxed manner.