Almost everywhere you look today, somewhere, someone is talking about mindfulness. So what’s all the noise about? Why should you care?
Imagine that you got smartphone or a tablet computer for the first time. You’ve never seen such a machine before, ever, and someone just handed it to you. Would you know how to use? No. But you would probably learn with time. Your human nature, an amazing surviving adaptable machine will figure it out. Nevertheless, there are many things about this tablet or smartphone that you still won’t know or understand. Why it works the way it works, how it works, how to fix it when it’s broken, why it slows down sometimes etc.
Our mind is the same. No one ever really taught you how to use it. You were given your mind at birth and simply over time learned how to use it for your benefit. But your mind is a mighty and powerful tool. It can do so much with the proper guidance. More often than not, it uses you instead of the other way around. Ask yourself these simple questions:
Can you stop thinking or slow down your thinking when you want to?
Do you sometimes find yourself doing things you didn’t want to do?
Can you concentrate whenever you want?
Can you change your perspective on things easily?
Can you work with your thoughts and feelings or are you ruled by those?
Most people, almost everyone I know both in personal and professional life will answer no to at least one of these questions. The reason is that most people simply do not take the time to invest in their mind as they take to invest in their body or other domains of life. What would your body look like if you never gave a thought to what you put into it or ever exercise it? What would your career look like if you never took the time and effort to work on the skills that are important for your job?
So mindfulness, or the practice of mindfulness is simply that. The act of taking care of your mind. Learning how to use it. Learning how to be a master of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Now, if you are struggling emotionally, cognitively, behaviorally, this is even more important. It is a clear sign that it is time for you to get a hold of your mind. Learn how to work with it. It is never too late and NOW is the time.
There are many books, audio tapes, and videos about this subject. Just reach out and grab whatever attracts you. If you don’t want to extend the effort right NOW then simply do this: As you’re reading it. Become aware of yourself reading this. Prior to becoming aware of reading these lines, you were immersed in them or worse you were thinking about something else while reading. It is like watching a movie and forgetting yourself for a while. So I’m reminding you now. Remember yourself. Be aware. Be self-aware. Aware that you’re reading. This is the beginning of mindfulness.
You can practice mindfulness with almost anything. The principle is to focus on an object. Any object. The object can be your breathing, a point on the wall, a painting, a cross, a sound of waterfall, whatever you can focus on.
As you practice focusing on that object your brain begins to change. It is like going to gym and practicing muscle groups. So does your brain (in particular an area called the insula) is getting better, bigger, and more connected at keeping focus and not distracted. Let’s try, once you’re doing reading this paragraph close your eyes and count 10 breaths. Count only the out breaths. Count those breaths without getting distracted, by thinking and directing your attention only to counting the breaths and feeling your body as you’re breathing. Let’s do it now.
This alone can be your practice of mindfulness. If you practice this regularly, daily. It could do more for you than you can possibly imagine. It is literally giving you the power to take control of your mind and of your life.
Hard? Easy? Want more? Read the next post about mindfulness or download guided meditation audio files from the resources page.