Many of us spend our waking time sleepwalking, we perform our daily activities on autopilot and we are unaware of what is happening around us. Every day our minds are flooded with a constant stream of thoughts ranging from mundane and boring tasks to more deeper thoughts about life in general. According to popular research, there could be a many, or more than 60,000 thoughts each day, and these often-repeating day after day.
Each of these thoughts will stimulate a response, we will determine if it is a good thought, a neutral thought or an unpleasant, uncomfortable thought. This assessment with then set up a chain reaction in the physical body, particularly the nice and unpleasant thoughts, often quite subtle, but occasionally obvious. Many of us carry around a lot of physical tension, simply because we are continually processing these uncomfortable thoughts.
We may be a passenger in a car, for example, and thinking about the past, we may not notice the scenes around us, the weather, the environment we pass through, the colours and the activities before our eyes, as we are so absorbed internally. Mindfulness helps us to reclaim each moment, to live in the present so that little passes us by and most importantly, to decouple our minds from the noise in our head.
A certain amount of automatic activity isn’t bed though, it allows us to remember things, and to plan. However too much dwelling on the past or future means that our most valuable time, the present, is lost.
Cultivating mindfulness or learning to develop mindfulness is the act of keeping yourself anchored in the present moment, noticing every sensation and every detail of what is going on around you and in your space.
If you are writing a letter mindfully, (as I am writing this article) you will notice everything about it. The words as they appear on your screen or from the pen, the smell of the fresh sheet of paper before you start writing the sound of the keyboard as you press the keys or the resistance of the pen as it glides across the paper. You feel the pressure of your fingertips on the keys and the sensation of typing or the feel of the pen in the hand and the grip between your fingers. The more you engage, the more you connect, and nothing escapes your immediate attention. You develop a deeper sensitivity to real time and awareness. You see everything, feel everything and your immediate senses are primed, you develop a sense of peaceful detachment. You don’t need to analyse, judge or fix anything, you simply watch and feel.
When we live in the present moment everything takes on a new meaning. Colours are brighter and more vibrant, objects appear in striking detail and the sounds you hear sounds become clearer, our sensations are intensified. Mindfulness can be cultivated with mindfulness meditation, try this whenever and wherever you can:
Pull your mind away from wherever it is and concentrate on what you are doing in that moment, it doesn’t matter whether you are standing up, walking, or sitting down. Whatever you are doing, walking home, to work, eating, showering, start doing it with al of your senses engaged.
Smell the fragrance of the air around you, taste every mouthful of food you are eating, feel the sensation of water against the skin as you wash. Ask yourself what you are doing and what you are experiencing and feeling in that moment.
After a short while, you will probably find your mind trying to distract you as thoughts surface. Just notice these thoughts, you may not recognise this at first but be patient. When you find yourself drifting and thinking, gently bring your mind back to the present moment. This will draw the mind into the ‘alpha state’ where we are more passive and open to our feelings.
Stay here as long as you are able and come back here as often as you can.
Yoga is a mindful activity, the origin of yoga was simply to calm the busy mind. This process has stood the test of time and is as relevant now as it was 5000 or so years ago.