Mindfulness, how to practice it and its benefits-
Mindfulness can be described as attentive awareness of the reality of things especially of the present moment. Mindfulness is a state of active attention on the present. When we are mindful, we observe our thoughts and feelings from a distance in a detached manner without judging them good or bad. Instead letting the life pass by, we live in the moment, awakening to the experience. This reduces our tendency to work on autopilot allowing us to choose how we react or respond.
Normally, when we are driving to a place and arrive at the destination only to realize that we remember nothing about the journey. This is a common example of mindlessness or going on autopilot. In our busy life, we constantly multitask. So it is easy to lose awareness in the present moment.
Mindfulness becomes a power in particular when it is coupled with clear comprehension of whatever is taking place. Human minds are easily distracted, habitually examining past events and trying to anticipate the future. However, becoming more aware of our thoughts, feelings and sensations in a way that suspends judgment and self-criticism can have an incredibly positive impact on our lives.
ABC of mindfulness—
A is for awareness
B is for just being with your experience and
C is for seeing things and responding more wisely
How to practice mindfulness?-
Begin mindfulness meditation practice -- To begin find a quiet place and focus your mind on the present moment. Don’t think of other things but sit in silence. Meditate daily beginning with 10 minutes and increase duration gradually. Be aware of your thoughts but be willing to release them and stop thinking about or focusing on them.
Begin mindfulness practice out of meditation -- Be aware of your body, emotions and what is happening at the moment. Notice sensations and reduce distractions. Live in the moment as if there is no tomorrow. You must realize beauty in ever moment and in every activity. This is a conscious act which requires participation. For example, while walking down the street, look at the way lights reflect off the building, the tree line, the birds etc. Listen to the birds, the sound of the car passing by, conversations of strangers, planes flying overhead etc. Notice everything around you at the moment.
Perform random, spontaneous acts of kindness. Minimize activities that dull the awareness of the moment. Do things that are active and encourage you to look around and engage the world in that moment.
Consider gratitude -- We have taken for granted so many things which we have. Recognize all the blessing and gifts from God. Take time every day to thank God for your blessings. Recognize that God is counting on you to use your blessings and gifts. Sharing your blessings and gifts with others is the ultimate expression of gratitude.
Contemplate – Take into account situations, different outputs that color your judgment or mental frame. Contemplate your physical attributes as contribution of your internal views. Contemplate your feelings as the present moment repulses or attracts you. Contemplate your state of mind.
When you analyze impressions, perceptions and experiences, which the current situation gives, you can see the situation without being obscured by your murky past.
Benefits of mindfulness —
- Mindfulness helps us to understand, tolerate and deal with emotions in a healthy way. It helps to alter the habitual responses by taking pause and choosing how to react. By being mindful, we experience the world directly through our five senses. We taste food we are eating. We recognize the thoughts we are having. We can thus label the thoughts and feelings we have and don’t allow them to overpower us and dictate our behavior.
- Mindfulness strengthens our immune system. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has been proven to increase telomeres - the caps at the ends of the genes – which can reduce cell damage and lengthen our life span.
- Mindfulness improves concentration. It reduces ruminative thinking which contributes to high levels of stress. Stress and ruminative thinking contribute to mental health hazards.
- Regular practice of mindfulness meditation reduces the high blood pressure as a result of reduced levels of stress. It has also been proven to reduce or improve dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Mindfulness opens us up to a limitless possibility for happiness that life has to offer us by directly limiting the relentless commentary of our thoughts.
- By learning mindfulness, we learn to take pause and react in a more constructive way to conflicts and situations. We become less reactive but more receptive to the emotions generated in us.
- Mindfulness develops more self-acceptance which helps us build compassion for others. It brings us closer to people whom we care about.
- We learn to slow our racing thoughts which lead to self-sabotaging behaviors. We improve our ability to focus our attention. It strengthens our resilience and enhances our capacity to experience the joys of everyday life.
Ajahn Sumedho clarifies further what is mindfulness as below--
Some people do not know the difference between "mindfulness" and "concentration." They concentrate on what they're doing, thinking that is being mindful. . . . We can concentrate on what we are doing, but if we are not mindful at the same time, with the ability to reflect on the moment, then if somebody interferes with our concentration, we may blow up, get carried away by anger at being frustrated. If we are mindful, we are aware of the tendency to first concentrate and then to feel anger when something interferes with that concentration. With mindfulness we can concentrate when it is appropriate to do so and not concentrate when it is appropriate not to do so.