Mindfulness has become the latest hot topic since it made it to the top of NHS recommendations for dealing with stress and anxiety. But what is mindfulness?
The frenzied rush of day-to-day life, which involves countless to-do lists, multitasking, taking care of ‘real world’ responsibilities such as children, bills, and going to work, as well as newer ‘virtual world’ responsibilities such as social media, has become the new ‘normal’ pace of life. If we do sit down for five minutes during the day, the TV or radio are likely to be on, or we’re poring through mindless chatter on social media. Taking time to connect with ourselves has become a luxury that a lot of us think can only be achieved whilst away on holiday. And even then, the mind is busy with past concerns and hypothetical future dramas, and the whole point of why we’ve taken time in the first place is missed. We’re unable to stay present.
Mindfulness has become the latest hot topic since it made it to the top of NHS recommendations for dealing with stress and anxiety. But what is mindfulness? People may think it requires the need to ‘do’ something, as frequently a lot of what we seek to accomplish in life requires the act of ‘doing’. That’s why we’ve become a society that is so disconnected from who we are as people. We’ve forgotten how to sit and be with ourselves.
Mindfulness and Daily Life
It simply requires you to be aware of what you’re doing, to stay present with it.
When you’re already doing something like washing dishes, mindfulness doesn’t require you to do something on top of it. It simply requires you to be aware of what you’re doing, to stay present with it: ie. to feel the warmth of the water against your skin, to feel the silkiness of the soapy water as you rub your fingers together, to hear the sound of the splashes as you immerse the dishes beneath the water, to smell the fragrance of the detergent that you’ve used, to see the colour of the tomato sauce that you’ve wiped off a plate and that is now disintegrating in the water, to feel both your feet planted on the ground beneath you.
Mindfulness and Yoga
Practising yoga gives you a prime opportunity to be in the present moment. Through the pairing of physical movement and breath, you’re being mindful by anchoring the mind to that movement, to that breath, and to the intention of why you’re on your mat in the first place. When sitting in stillness for meditation, being mindful is to allow yourself to observe what is happening in your mind. One of the meditations I use with my students is that of observing a thought as you would a train passing by. You can choose not to get involved in that thought, and not to get on the train. You watch as the train passes you by. Should you find that you’re suddenly on that train, you get off, and resume watching and observing what surfaces in the mind.
The Here and Now
We only seem to feel rewarded when we’ve collapsed into bed having ticked off everything on our to-do list. But that list will never end. The quality of what we do should be more important than the quantity. As with everything in life, producing increased quantity compromises quality. When you take time to slow down, to be mindful and present with what you do, and to take some time during the day to do nothing at all, simply to be in the moment, you come back to what you need to do with more focus, clarity, inspiration and energy. You might find that the task that would have taken you 2 hours to accomplish will now only take you 1; or that the ideas and solutions that never came to you and made you feel like you were chasing your own tail, have now unexpectedly appeared.
What can you see, hear, smell, taste, touch?
Try it. On your mat, with your yoga practice, anchor your mind to your body and breath, let the exterior world go, and for the time you’re practising, be with nothing other than yourself. Feel the mat under your feet or sitting bones, the air on your skin, and let go. Off your mat, feel what you’re doing, be aware of what you’re doing, be present. And when you find your mind wandering off, don’t worry about it – acknowledge it and come back to the here and now by tuning into your senses. What can you see, hear, smell, taste, touch?
The past is gone. The future hasn’t yet come. All that exists is now.