Mindfulness: An Introduction
Reading and learning about Mindfulness was a big revelation to me. First of all, I must say that it was the idea of Mindfulness itself that got me hooked into the quest for personal growth and inner change and instilled in me the desire to learn and share with others such a simple yet life-changing practice. It also gave birth to the main idea behind soulhiker.com
It was also a revelation because it gave me the great insight that the human mind can be changed positively and transcend beyond its limitations and conditioning. There is much to say about Mindfulness and its deep implication to mental and physical health, to personal growth, happiness, success & beyond, that it will be a topic in its own right in this blog.
In this article I will just write a little about what mindfulness is so as to serve as some background to consequent posts relating directly or indirectly to Mindfulness. I hope that it’s worth a good read!
What is Mindfulness?
Most of us had moments of Mindfulness some time or another. Have you ever been in a place or situation in which all your awareness becomes completely in-tune with the present moment?
You are watching a wonderful view alone or with a special person or walking through a park when suddenly everything becomes alive. You start noticing the rustling of the leaves on the tree branches, the cool wind on your face, the chirping of birds, the scent in the air and even all those little details that usually go unnoticed in our hectic everyday life.
Or perhaps you are participating in an athletic event and you are about to leap or strike in that decisive action when all of a sudden your mind slows down, the background noise fades away and you are completely focused on the action. You are in the flow.
If you understood what I’m talking about or can relate to it with some of your experiences, than you already have a glimpse on what Mindfulness is.
Mindfulness is a state of consciousness where our awareness is focused or centred on our present moment. The mind becomes calm and limpid as we can consciously notice our surrounding or our own bodily sensations (example my breath or the way my feet feel as I touch the ground and walk) or other perceptions (such as proprioception which for example is the way I can feel the position of my hand without looking at it).
Being in the Here and Now
In most of our waking life, our mind is preoccupied with something that happened to us in the past or worried about something that might or might not happen in the future.
In our everyday frenetic life, whether we are rushing off to work in the morning, waiting for a train or a bus, doing housework, preparing the kids for school, eating breakfast while reading the newspaper or making some notes for the day, we are constantly being not present.
Our mind is sucked into thinking a million thoughts on this morning’s meeting, yesterday’s clash I had with the shop assistant (and all the things I wanted to tell him), on tomorrow’s Birthday party or the bills due next week. You know what I mean. Continuously the mind is taken over by these thoughts, leaving no time to experience the present. By being hijacked by thoughts about the past or future, the mind becomes absent in the present. It is like going on autopilot.
In fact we go through most of our day’s routine in this autopilot mode. We rarely find time to slow down and get connected again with our present moment.
Mindfulness practice is all about being conscious and aware of your present, moment by moment. It’s about being connected to your present with your being (and not your doing!)
Mindfulness is the key to your life
Mindfulness came out from Zen Buddhist philosophy and practice. It has very ancient roots in Eastern thought but it is recently starting to be embraced in Western Psychology and Therapy. This is not surprising since Mindfulness has been scientifically shown, by scientists practising mindfulness meditation such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, to have extensive benefits for the human mind, body and quality of life and performance.
Some of these benefits include:
- Stress reduction and relaxation
- Improved memory & concentration
- Enhanced Creativity
- Insight and Clarity
- Improved analytical skills
- Dissolves problems related to stress and anxiety
- Reduce risk of heart problems
- Therapy for depression
- Promote curiosity, openness and acceptance
- Learn to enjoy richness of experiences
To Meditate or not to Meditate
Although Mindfulness is normally practised through meditation, (later on I would like to share with you the beginnings of my journey in Mindfulness meditation) it can be exercised through any activity in which you can be mindful such as eating, walking, cleaning, practising a sport, doing stretching, etc. More of this later on in upcoming articles.