“To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.” ~ William Blake
Do you consider yourself a mindful person?
First, what is mindfulness?
• Dictionary definition: Mindfulness is a noun - the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
• Being a yoga instructor, I define mindfulness as: awareness of everything in this present moment, through all my senses, without judging what I notice
• The Mayo Clinic defines it this way: Mindfulness practice, also called mindful meditation, is a type of mind-body therapy that involves focusing awareness on what you're experiencing in an open, interested and nonjudgmental way.
• Another definition I read: Mindfulness is the gentle effort to be continuously present with experience.
• Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center defines mindfulness this way:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
According to the Mayo Clinic, the goal of mindfulness is to create distance between your perception and response to certain situations or feelings, helping you respond more thoughtfully and calmly, and potentially reducing the effects of stress.
Researchers believe that mindfulness may help people better respond to stress by fostering healthier coping strategies. For example, study participants who reported higher levels of mindfulness were less likely to rely on coping strategies, such as denial, disengagement and self-blame. They were also more likely to use more-positive strategies, such as information gathering, planning and seeking out social support.
Mindfulness practice appears to be a safe, drug-free approach to coping with stress and anxiety.
Helpguide.org – Harvard Health lists these three areas that mindfulness affects:
1) Mindfulness improves well being
• Increasing your capacity for mindfulness supports many attitudes that contribute to a satisfied life.
• Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events.
• By focusing on the here and now, many people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past, are less preoccupied with concerns about success and self-esteem, and are better able to form deep connections with others.
2) Mindfulness improves physical health
If greater well-being isn’t enough of an incentive, scientists have discovered the benefits of mindfulness techniques help improve physical health in a number of ways. Mindfulness can:
• help relieve stress
• treat heart disease
• lower blood pressure
• reduce chronic pain
• improve sleep
• alleviate gastrointestinal difficulties
3) Mindfulness improves mental health
In recent years, psychotherapists have turned to mindfulness meditation as an important element in the treatment of a number of problems, including:
• substance abuse
• eating disorders
• couples’ conflicts
• anxiety disorders
• obsessive-compulsive disorder
Some experts believe that mindfulness works, in part, by helping people to accept their experiences - including painful emotions - rather than react to them with aversion and avoidance.
The easiest method I teach, is to observe your breath. Breathe in through your nostrils and notice the air is cool. Next, breathe out through your nostrils and notice the air is slightly warmer. Cool air in, warm air out. Try to do this for a full minute to start. If you notice your thoughts straying to other things, just label it ‘thinking’ and bring your awareness back to your breath. Cool air in, warm air out. You can do this anywhere at any time.
Helpguide.org – Harvard Health offers these mindfulness techniques:
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
• Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
• Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
• Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
• Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
• Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.
Of course, turning off the TV, cell phone and even music for a few minutes will allow you to experience yourself in the present moment. As you develop your practice, you’ll be able to do it with any kind of distraction.
Please remember to be kind to yourself. There is no right or wrong way, so notice if you do judge yourself, then let it go.