So what is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is all about being aware of the present moment, of living completely in the here and now, being fully aware of what your body and mind is doing right this very second, not what you plan to eat for dinner. It’s not about the ‘power of positive thinking’ or not a simple relaxation technique, it’s about being you, it’s about not letting life sneak us by or as Kabat-Zinn puts it, “The art of conscious living.” What are the benefits of mindfulness? By being mindful of yourself you will have a better understanding of who you are, you will be able to greatly appreciate the experiences you live through every moment of everyday, you will be more balanced within yourself, which will make you more calm and peaceful, and any unpleasant thoughts will have less sway over you. How do you know when you are being mindless? Mindlessness is when you don’t feel as though you are connected to yourself in the present moment. This happens when you run on autopilot. You may have moments of time where you find it difficult to remember details of things that have happened. You might become clumsy because you are not paying attention to your surroundings. Another example of mindlessness is when you forget someone’s name as soon as you hear it. At that moment, you are not focusing on the here and now! So how does one go about being mindful? There are many exercises one can try to help improve mindfulness. One helpful exercise is called ‘The Empty Bowl’. The Empty Bowl meditation is excellent if your mind is feeling cluttered. This meditation exercise brings calmness and a feeling of peace, allowing you better concentration.
The Empty Bowl – as described by Living Well ‘Sit comfortably and quietly with your palms up and open and placed on your knees, like empty bowls. Open your mouth slightly, and touch the tongue to the roof of the mouth, behind the front teeth. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing so. Paying attention to your breath. Let your lungs breathe with no effort. Simply watch the movement of your breath. Inhale. Exhale. During inhalation, as air touches the inside of the nostrils or mouth, be aware of that breath. During exhalation, again air touches the nostrils or mouth. The ingoing air may feel cool, the outgoing air warm. For a fraction of a second, enter into your nose. Sit in the nostril and watch your breath: ingoing, outgoing, ingoing, outgoing. Let your lungs do their job. You are simply sitting and watching. Practice this for a moment. Ingoing, outgoing; sitting and watching. After a few minutes, follow the breath. When the lungs inhale, go with the air into the nose, to the back of the throat and lungs. Go deep down behind the navel, where you will experience a natural stop. For a fraction of a second, the breath stops. Stay in that stop, and then when the lungs exhale, again follow the breath as it reverses its course. Come up from the navel to the diaphragm, heart, lungs, and throat; back to the nose then out of the body. When the breath stops, the mind stops, because the mind is the movement of the breath. When the mind becomes quiet, you simply exist, without body, without mind, without breath. In that stop, you become like an empty bowl, and when you become an empty bowl, all is still in the present moment. And when you are ready, bring your awareness back to your body sitting on the chair. Open your eyes and move forward with your day… imprinted with the sense of stillness and peace.’ By practicing mindfulness skills a little every day you’ll find it easier to slip into ‘mindfulness mode’. You will be calmer, be able to think clearer, you will start responding to events and people rather than just reacting and you’ll have more control over everything you do.
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