As I’m sure you noticed in the title, today’s post is part one in the Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness. This will be a four-part series in which I discuss the benefits of practicing mindfulness and I provide you simple techniques for incorporating the practice into your daily life.
What is Mindfulness?
To put it simply, mindfulness is being aware. But in reality it’s so much more than that.
Being mindful means:
Paying attention with intent - This means that you are aware for awareness’ sake. You choose to pay attention, to be alive, to be nowhere but the current moment. For each mindful moment, there is no past and no future – only now.
Being non-judgemental - This is acceptance. It simply means that you are aware of your thoughts and surroundings, but you decline to interpret what your senses are telling you.
Essentially, it is you saying, ”Yeah, I know you’re there. So what?”
Asking questions – Questions are one of the most important aspects of mindfulness. This is where awareness really comes alive. It means the difference between knowing that you’re eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast, and being aware of the crunch of it between your teeth, tasting the sweetness of it on your tongue, and so much more. To fully experience mindfulness, you ask yourself all of the who/what/where/etc questions for each of your senses. What does it smell like? Who is around me? What sounds do I hear?
Next week, I’ll talk a lot more about each of these.
What’s so Important about Mindfulness Anyway?
I feel that mindfulness is an essential part of any self-discovery journey, and lots of experts, like Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, feel that it’s absolutely necessary. There are even adaptations of mindfulness for many of the worlds major religions, so for most of us, religion isn’t a reason to not practice. But, regardless, it’s a pretty awesome self-discovery tool, that if used on a daily basis, can awaken you to parts of yourself you never knew existed.
The benefits of mindfulness:
Greater awareness - With mindfulness, awareness is key. It’s the step (and the benefit) that unlocks all of the rest. As you get comfortable with the practice, you’ll become more aware of your surroundings and your feelings, which will allow you to make better on-the-fly decisions and to more thoroughly enjoy life.
Better understanding - Not only will you gain a better understanding of yourself and your specific triggers, but you’ll also be better able to understand others and their reactions too. We tend to be much more accepting of negative events and behaviors when we know why they’re happening in the first place. And of course, with understanding, comes the ability to change.
Lower stress levels - When you’re not worrying about anything, you aren’t stressed. Worry manifests itself in so many ways: fear, anger, resentment. And these negative emotions are just our way of not accepting something in our lives. Essentially, mindfulness leads to acceptance, and acceptance silences worry. It’s a win-win if you ask me.
More enjoyment - When you aren’t consumed with stress or thinking about what happened yesterday (or what will happen tomorrow), you can actually begin to slow down and enjoy life. All we have is this moment, right now. The now is where we live and every second you spend in the past or future, is a second of life you have wasted. The present is the only time that truly exists for us.
Look up the word present in a dictionary — you won’t find the words “speculation” or “memory” in the definition, I promise you.
Deeper sense of peace - There is a definite feeling of peace that comes with a daily practice of mindfulness. When we can filter through the stress and negativity, we can find ourselves able to enjoy life in a much deeper way, enabling us to relax into the feeling of simply being alive.
This week’s homework is easy, but it’s super important, so don’t skip it!
Pick a time to be mindful, and be specific.
- I’m going to be mindful for 5 minutes while I’m brushing my teeth each morning.
- I’m going to be mindful for 10 minutes while I wash the dinner dishes each day.
- I’m going to be mindful while I each lunch each day.
- I’m going to be mindful while I’m in the shower/bath tub.
Share with us in the comments below. What time did you pick? And have you ever practiced mindfulness before?
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