The #1 question people ask is “What is Mindfulness and what benefits will Mindfulness give me?” There are a number of benefits that people gain by incorporating Mindfulness into their lives and with integrating the various Mindful practices into our daily routines, they instill these benefits for the long haul. Mindfulness is not a quick fix program and will deliver its benefits over time. Just like a personal fitness program, everyone will reap the rewards by practicing. If one wishes to maintain those benefits, regular practice is essential, much like any physical fitness program.
So what is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is experiencing life through thoughts/images/inner dialogue, emotions, and body sensations with a moment by moment conscious awareness in a non-judgmental manner. This may sound way out there and complicated but essentially Mindfulness is being aware of when your mind wanders away from what is in front of you in the present moment. Then when you start to beat yourself up for something that happened in the past, reliving an old situation or worrying about a future event, you can then gently guide your attention back to what you were doing before it wandered.
Most of us spend a lot time in the past or future and not really in the present. For example, many people spend a lot of time in the past going over scenes that prove they are inferior or unworthy. While others spend a lot of time worrying about some catastrophic event which they are convinced will unfold at some point in the future. Others still get caught up focusing on everything around them that is negative and pay little attention to what is presently good. Mindfulness allows for a different path to follow and it’s through practicing some simple mental exercises that we can train our minds to notice when it wanders off the present and gently guide its focus onto something neutral or good. Science has proven that when we conduct these mental exercises repeatedly our brains develop new neural pathways making this way of thinking more accessible and automatic.
The benefits gained from having a Mindful lifestyle with practices are numerous. As one begins their learning, one starts with Meditation exercises. We start here because it allows us to practice with a minimum of distracting external stimuli. Ultimately we will bring Mindfulness into our everyday life – moment by moment. The most basic meditation practice is a breath meditation. In this practice, one starts following their breath as the intended object of focus. During this practice one’s mind will inevitably wander off the breath and this practice is all about noticing when it does and then gently guiding it back; refocusing on their breath and starting over. The goal is not to never have a wandering mind but rather to notice when our mind wanders. With this practice one learns to improve one’s focus, being present, non-judgemental (it’s OK that one wandered), starting over (it’s OK to start again and try again) and patience. Meditation is not about “zoning out” or “calming the mind”.
As one extends their practice they can practice other types of meditations; each giving the practitioner more insights into the mind and body and the connection therein. A body sensation or body scan meditation allows us to increase body awareness; where do we hold tension in our bodies for example. An emotions meditation allows us to be aware of the emotions that we experience throughout the day. When combined with a body awareness meditation we can start to notice the link between emotions and body sensations; it’s our emotions that cause our bodies to react with sensations. A thoughts/images meditation allows the practitioner to become aware of the thoughts/images that are generated by our minds as well as experiencing and noticing the link between thoughts (the ones we believe to be true) and the emotions generated which in turn trigger our body sensations. At this point we start to really see and experience and learn from the connection between our minds and bodies.
As one continues to practice one starts to be aware of the stories (thoughts/beliefs) that are generated moment by moment in our minds. It is these stories that influence our actions. We get inspired to act when we believe the generated stories in our minds that tell us we are skilled. We procrastinate when we believe the generated stories in our minds that are telling us we are failures. Our stories/beliefs that our minds create drive our success or failure. One’s stories/beliefs always trigger one’s actions.
If anyone wishes to go in a different direction, or change course, or become better, or become more efficient, or become more financially secure, or become happier, or become more productive etc. everyone must be aware of the stories within oneself. It is through Mindfulness and a Mindfulness lifestyle that individuals will achieve great things.
Playlist of 10-Minute Guided Meditations from our YouTube Channel
- Focus Increases: Learning to increase present moment awareness allows us to gently guide the mind back to what the intention of the moment is thus increasing focus. Extended focus is called concentration.
- Creativity Increases: When awareness of our limiting stories about our abilities and ideas increases we are then able to manage our perceived limitations. When this negative chatter is diffused it allows us to be free with ideas, experiment and think “outside the box”.
- Empathy Increases: When understanding of ourselves increases we gain greater insight about the people around us. We are better able to understand not just how the people around us may feel but WHY they feel this way. This insight allows us to become tuned in with actual needs for ourselves and others thus granting us the opportunity to better align our personal objectives with them.
- Compassion and Understanding Increases: When compassion and understanding increases we free ourselves up from the “blame game”. In this way failure is looked upon as just feedback and this mindset allows us to be free to try new things and be more helpful.
- Stress Decreases: When we start being proactive and managing our beliefs we effectively manage stress more productively. Stress is just a manifestation of our inner fears. When we gain trust in ourselves our fears lessen and we see challenges as opportunities. This opens us up, both individually and collectively, to larger goals and aspirations.
- Physical Wellness Increases: Our minds have a huge impact on our physical well-being. Improving our mind-wellness results in overall improvements in physical health.
- Patience Increases: We learn to accept what is and what is needed in order to move forward in a positive direction. This is the definition of being patient.
- Resiliency Increases: Becoming resilient means we bounce back from adversity or set-backs. We view set-backs as learning experiences and feed back as opposed to failure. Mindfulness allows us to be aware of the negative chatter when adverse situations present themselves. We learn to assess our thinking and beliefs more objectively and not judge ourselves as bad when adversity happens. We learn to put the past behind us through acceptance and focus on the present moment moving forward and starting over.
- Productivity Increases: All of the positive gains resulting from Mindfulness practices together make huge positive impacts on our personal productivity and efficiency. We can accomplish way more than we initially thought because we have to tools to guide our thinking into a positive direction. When we struggle less our energy levels remain stable, which allows us to go the distance.
One Last Thing…
You have to practice regularly. That does not mean you have to sit formally. You can keep practicing being present and Mindful as you go about your daily routine. You cannot improve your cooking by simply watching the cooking shows on TV, you actually have to cook!