Often we end up advocating to others what we need to do ourselves. Mindfulness fits squarely in that category for me. I encourage my coaching clients, friends, and family to practise mindfulness, but regrettably I don't practise it often enough myself. Time to make amends!
Often we end up advocating to others what we need to do ourselves. Mindfulness fits squarely in that category for me. I encourage my coaching clients, friends, and family to practise mindfulness, but regrettably I don’t practise it often enough myself. Time to make amends!
I’ve just returned from a walk with my four-legged friend Kody during which I practised mindfulness. While walking, I deliberately focused on the different shades of green at my feet, the crisp air blowing from the lake, the retriever smiles on Kody’s face, and other memorable sights, sounds, and sensations. Returning home I felt calm in my mind and strong in my chest.
Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Brand of Mindfulness
Relaxing in my abode, I went further by listening to a meditation recording from mindfulness guru Jon Kabat-Zinn. His calm voice helped me see images of a lake being held by the land, the sun reflecting on rippling water, and breezes creating waves. Then he invited me to become one with the lake to “experience the moments of complete stillness when both reflection and water are clear and other moments when the surface is disturbed, choppy, stirred up.” He encouraged me to note the play of the various energies in my mind and heart?the fleeting thoughts and feelings, impulses, and reactions which come and go as ripples and waves.”
The experience of meditating resembled my mindful walk with Kody. I stopped thinking of what I had to do next or what I could do better. I accepted what was around me and inside of me–not doubting, not questioning, not analyzing. In both cases, I felt peaceful.
How Do You Achieve Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be practised in a variety of ways. Basically it refers to being intentionally aware of your thoughts and actions in the present moment, without judgment.
One popular way to enter a state of mindfulness is to concentrate on your breath. Be aware of the air entering and leaving your body. It’s okay if negative thoughts enter your head as you are doing this, but don’t engage–just be aware.
Another form of mindfulness is walking meditation, where focusing on the rhythm of walking transports you to a place of peace and quiet. Any walk, especially one in nature, can put me into a state of walking meditation.
The Purpose of Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps us realize that we can create our own happiness–or unhappiness. We understand that we can feel peaceful deep inside, although chaos seems to rule supreme around us. We take note of mind-chatter, which is fertile ground for fear, anxiety, and other negative thoughts, but we don’t pay attention to it. We can practise mindfulness anywhere and anytime; for example, while watering flowers or relaxing on a bus or airplane.
Mindfulness is one of the eight tenets of Buddhist practice aimed at ending suffering. Thich Nhat Hanh, a leading Buddhist writer, feels that we can be in the moment with everything, including washing dishes. Just concentrate on your breath and focus entirely on the task at hand, not on your distracting thoughts.
The Scientific Side
In 1979 Jon Kabat-Zinn started the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, and since then his research has focused on mind-body interactions. He developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an eight-week program now used in over 200 hospitals.
Kabat-Zinn and his colleagues studied the effects of practising moment-to-moment awareness. Their research published in Clinical Psychology (2003) shows that randomly selected employees in a corporate setting engaged in the MBSR program experienced positive changes in their brain activity, emotional processing under stress, and immune function.
It’s Your Turn
Practising the mindfulness program was a very positive experience for me.
What could mindfulness bring to your life? More self-confidence? Calmer relationships? Deeper feelings? When you practise mindfulness, you make the most of the power of your thoughts to create inner peace.
But most of all, mindfulness is about actively working on yourself while learning and growing in the process. Pick a favourite activity and immerse yourself in it. Be conscious of your thoughts, but don’t engage the negative ones. Feel your power to overcome fear, anxiety, and other negativity. Feel the inner peace flowing from mindfulness.