What Is Mindfulness & Who Can Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular as people are learning about the wide range of benefits it can afford them.
However, despite more and more people looking to Get Connected and practice mindfulness, many people still struggle to integrate a meaningful mindfulness practice into their life.
Many feel that mindfulness is difficult. But this is a misconception and is due to a misunderstanding of the basic essence of what it really means to be mindful.
So, in this article, we will cover some of the basics of mindfulness, including:
- Why we should practice mindfulness
- Some of the benefits of being mindful;
- Who can practice mindfulness;
- What mindfulness actually is
- What mindfulness is NOT;
The Benefits Of Practicing Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can help us improve our physical health, our emotional well being and our mental processes. It also helps to foster better relationships and happier, more harmonious communities.
- Lower Blood Pressure
- Improved Sleep
- Better Digestion
- Greater Contentment and Satisfaction in Life
- Less Anxiety and Self-Doubt
- Greater Joy
- More Supportive and Understanding Relationships
However, one of the biggest benefits in practicing mindfulness is in its ability to reduce stress.
This is because stress puts a huge strain on the body and being, causing a wide range of physical, mental and emotional reactions within us which can severely impact our overall health.
You can read more about stress and the effects it has on your physiology in, ‘What Is Stress?’.
The effectiveness of mindfulness in treating and managing stress, results because you automatically switch on your ‘Rest & Repair’ mode of being when you practice mindfulness. Your body and mind relax and your natural self-healing mechanisms are switched on to maintain and sustain good health and well being.
So this brings us to our next point: Who can practice mindfulness?
Who Can Practice Mindfulness?
The roots of modern mindfulness are found within the Buddhist tradition; but this doesn’t mean that you have be a Buddhist to practice mindfulness.
After all, the tea plant was cultivated in India, but you don’t have to be Indian to enjoy a good brew.
Thanks to the work of Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn, phD, and his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), mindfulness is now acknowledged both scientifically and medically as having very real and positive effects on those who practice it.
As a result, mindfulness is no longer confined to the esoteric or new age searchers of exotic theologies or spiritual practices. Nowadays, mindfulness is practiced by people from a wide range of cultural, religious, social, political or any other kind of background:
Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, Pagans:
Doctors, waiters, business tycoons, professional athletes, car par attendants, stay-at-home-mums:
From the young children of 5 years learning mindfulness in school, to people on mindfulness retreats, studying online mindfulness courses and attending workshops and classes:
People from all walks of life and from every corner of the world are practicing mindfulness and reaping the rewards.
Mindfulness is really just a tool which enables you to better harness the power and ability of your conscious mind more fully.
You are still free to then direct this enhanced mental functioning in any particular way you choose:
Towards better health, more harmonious relationships, greater success, as a spiritual practice, for world peace, or just for a little more calm and contentment in your days.
Who SHOULD Practice Mindfulness?
Well, we have seen that anyone can practice mindfulness, but who SHOULD practice it?
If you have any interest at all in any of the following:
- Improving your physical health;
- Improving your mental health and functioning;
- Increasing emotional stability and harmony;
- Increasing your ability to remain calm and find solutions in any situation;
- Becoming more joyful;
- Changing old, negative habits;
- Harnessing your full potential to live a life of passion, purpose and joy;
then mindfulness is something you will want to start bringing into your daily routine.
Now let’s look into what mindfulness actually is.
What Is Mindfulness?
I define mindfulness as follows:
Mindfulness is the conscious directing of your awareness to the fullness of the present moment.
What does that mean exactly?
It simply means that you choose to bring your attention to what is actually going on right HERE and NOW.
Most of us have a vague awareness of what is going on around us at any given time – we can drive to work with our crashing the car, we can navigate our way around the supermarket and we can make our self a cup of coffee in the morning.
However, there is a difference between normal, everyday awareness, and mindful awareness. You can read more about this in, The Difference Between Mindfulness and Awareness.
It means we are not distracted and engrossed by repetitive and habitual thoughts. We are not absorbed by what may be happening elsewhere, or what has happened in the past or what may or may not happen in the future.
When we are mindful, it means we are fully engaged in the reality of what IS in this present moment.
What About The Past and Future?
Being mindful doesn’t mean that we can never remember the past or plan for the future or think of others whom are not presently with us.
It can very beneficial to make plans for the future, remember the past and think of others, if we do so while being mindful and keeping our emotions grounded in our experience of the Now.
More About The Present Moment –The HERE & NOW
At any given moment, there is an endless variety and wealth of information which we can be aware of.
This can range from a basic mindful awareness of our physical environment, all the way through an awareness of our own body and emotions, an awareness of the energetic signals and information from other people and our surroundings, right on to an awareness of ALL THAT IS.
In my Practical Mindfulness training, I outline 7 levels, or depths, of awareness as follows:
These different aspects of awareness range from a vague awareness in which we operate primarily from habituated and instinctual responses, all the way through an awareness of the physical world, awareness of the non-physical world and finally, an awareness of the very fabric of life, the interconnectedness which flows through everything.
For many people today, awareness is often vague and operating from Instinctual or Sub- Consciousness.
This is where we find our self going through the same pattern of emotions, actions and thoughts, again and again, as our body, heart and mind respond to what is in front of us on autopilot.
For many people today, they are only vaguely aware of the thoughts racing through their minds and the emotions they are generating; they are aware just enough of what is in front of them to allow them to complete the task at hand.
Sound familiar at all?
You can read more about auto-pilot in, ‘The Difference Between Mindfulness and Auto-Pilot’.
So, when you practice mindfulness, your mind does not run on chaotically in an endless string of thought, however, neither does your mind become empty.
Mindfulness Is Not An Emptying Of The Mind
Many people like to say that mindfulness is a bit of a misnomer, because it implies that the mind is full when they see mindfulness as an emptying of the mind.
However, I see it a little differently:
When our minds are full of an endless and habitual chattering of thoughts, we are forced to function at a fairly low level of consciousness. However, when we fully engage the power and potential of our mind on the task at hand or simply in observation of the present moment, our mind begins to operate at a much higher degree of consciousness.
Our mind is then full of conscious awareness.
You can read more about this in, ‘Mindfulness Is Not An Emptying Of The Mind’.