Dr. Donna Rockwell, clinical psychologist/mindfulness expert wrote that most people live in a state where they are “either bemoaning their past or catastrophizing their future“.
What is mindfulness?
Over the last decade, mindfulness has become a buzz-word. But what is mindfulness? Jon Kabat-Zinn, considered the master of mindfulness describes mindfulness as:
- paying attention on purpose
- to something in the present
Living in the Present
But what about the present? For most of us, we spend very little time in the present. We think about what has happened or what will happen, not what is happening. The present is where we are right now. The dictionary defines the present as ” existing or occurring now“. Think about this for a moment. The present is what is happening in this moment. It’s so fleeting, just a moment, a flash, and then it’s over, now part of the past. So how do we become mindful? How do we live in the present?
Not as easy as it sounds right? Most of us can relate to the feeling of our mind wandering, day-dreaming, creating lists of to-do’s, thinking about what we should have done…even those who regularly practice mindfulness meditation experience the drifting mind. That’s no accident! We are programmed to scan our environment for threats, to think about what may lay around the corner ready to pounce! Think of our ancient selves living in a world where wild animals thought of us as food! The problem with this in our modern world is that we are constantly bombarded with stressors, just watch 15 minutes of news and you’ll see what we are up against – job security, climate change, financial worries, health of ourselves and our loved ones…the list goes on.
Mindfulness to the rescue!
But first, what benefits are there to practicing mindfulness?
- proven to increase telomerase, the caps at the end of our genes ( which in turn, reduce cell damage and actually lengthen our lives!)
- boosts immune system function ( allowing us to fight disease and prevent chronic illness)
- improves concentration
- reduce rumination ( those thoughts that keep you up at night, circling in our heads)
- improve overall mental health and reduce mental health symptoms like depression and anxiety.
The Basics of Mindfulness Practice
as seen at (www.mindful.org)
Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Here’s how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:
- Set aside some time. You don’t need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skills—but you do need to set aside some time and space.
- Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: we’re aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
- Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
- Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. That’s why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
- Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
That’s the practice. It’s often been said that it’s very simple, but it’s not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue!