Mad for Mindfulness

meditating dog 2If you haven’t heard the term ‘Mindfulness’ in the last few months, you’re probably in a small minority.  It’s the new ‘thing’ everyone is into (and admittedly it’s preferable to the whole twerking ‘thing’ that was driving even normally sane people to mad body jerking spasms) – it’s so ‘in’ that there are now books and classes and even mindfulness themed corporate play days!

But what is mindfulness.  I could be really corny and annoying and just tell you “It’s the opposite of mindlessness, actually.”  Well, duh! Of course it is.  But it’s kind of… well, exactly that.

Think about it this way – how many times have you been driving along a familiar route, and suddenly realised you’ve got to your destination but you don’t actually remember how you did, because you were miles away mentally.  You’d been thinking about other things and then, lo and behold, you’d arrived.  Well, that’s mindlessness.

Mindfulness is the literal opposite.  You focus on the here and now, on the details of the road, the steering wheel, the feel of the brake pedal, the other cars on the road…you get it.

Now apply that logic to our lives as a whole – how much of it are you living without noticing you’re living it?  How much time do you spend worrying about things that never actually happen, or ignoring things going on in your home, your body, your family?

The idea of Mindfulness is that you give your busy, wandering, stressed, higgledy-piggledy mind a bit of a break by just focussing on the here and now.  You notice what you’re thinking, you notice the thoughts going on but you do it in a more calm and detached way, and you also learn how to focus your thoughts in a more useful way.

Mindfulness won’t necessarily change what’s going on in your life, but it can help change the way you see, feel and react to what’s going on.  That change of focus could change your actions.  if your actions change, your life changes a little bit, and for the positive.  Again…you get the gist.

And there have been loads of studies showing how Mindfulness can help – I could bore you to tears and list some here, but I won’t.  Just Google Mindfulness and check out the plethora of great stats and awesome stuff out there.

So how do you start?  You don’t need incense, candles, loose white robes or any of that gear (unless you’re into it, in which case, feel free to go full on with the mystic magic).  What you do need is a little bit of space where you can relax quietly, without interruption for a few minutes.  Don’t worry about being able to do hours on end (who has that kind of time?!).  Just start with three minutes (or five if you feel daring!).

Sitting comfortably?  Good, then we’ll begin.

Just focus on your breath – how it travels in to your body, through your body and out.  Then focus on the out breath.  Focus on what’s going on with your body, where you hands are, how they feel resting against your lap, or how your feet feel against the floor.

What will probably happen is that you manage this for a few seconds and then your mind starts to wander.  That’s cool.  Let it.  But as soon as you notice it’s roaming, notice what you’re thinking about and then mentally let it go (a bit like cutting the strings of a balloon that’s floating away) and gently pull yourself back into focussing on your breath again.  And that’s pretty much it. Ta daaa!  Just work on being able to lengthen the time you’re focussing on the here and now and shortening the time your mind goes on a ramble.

Once you’ve cracked it, you can apply the technique any time you feel stressed, and as much as possible during your day.  Rather than fretting about the past or stressing about the future, it’ll help you enjoy being in the ‘now’.

So.  Switch off the auto-pilot and enjoy the ride!

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