Mindfulness meditation, or living mindfully, is the simple act of awareness. It’s an evidence-based practice and science has proven that mindfulness meditation reduces stress, anxiety and improves sleep. Mindfulness suggests that your mind is fully attending to what you are doing, right here, right now. You know exactly what you are doing and why. And therefore, you react less. When you practice mindfulness regularly, obsessive thinking reduces until it is almost non-existent.
Mindfulness is available to all of us. We all have the ability, and with dedicated practice we can access it.
Gently living with uncertainty
Mindfulness is the regular practice of bringing your attention to what you are experiencing in the moment. Good or bad, beautiful or ugly, we sit with uncomfortable emotions and we allow them to be. When we experience a crisis in our lives, or something goes wrong, the temptation can be to look for a quick solution. Sometimes we blame other people for what has gone wrong. When we can’t find a solution we may become angry, frustrated and lash out at those we love the most. This impacts our relationships. There are not many problems with an easy solution and there are times when we have to live with uncertainty and the uncomfortableness of a situation for a while. Mindfulness provides us with the techniques to do this.
Living with uncertainty is easier said than done, and I don’t profess that mindfulness alone will be the answer. But it does provide tools to make each difficult situation we encounter easier to bear.
The wisdom gained by not knowing lies in the belief that we don’t all have the answers. When I discovered this over ten years ago, it was one of the most liberating times in my life. I ceased any further attempts to control my life, to solve all my problems and believe that when things didn’t work out it was all my fault.
Different ways to meditate
Some of the ways to meditate include sitting in a chair, sitting cross-legged on the floor, walking, sitting or standing at your desk at work, getting a hot drink, cooking dinner. The list goes on. You can do a 20 minute sitting meditation in the garden or a one minute breath meditation at your desk. You choose what works best for you.
So how do you meditate whilst performing a task?
When you begin an activity, such as going for a walk, ask yourself, ‘What am I doing right now?’ Then you can reply to yourself step by step, ‘I am walking along High Street, feet hitting the concrete, arms swinging.’ Or whilst you are cooking you can say to yourself, ‘I am getting a knife. I am opening the fridge door and taking the carrots out.’ You get the drift.
A popular mindfulness practice is the breath meditation. You can do it when you are sitting and watching TV, or at your desk fielding phone calls or studying and trying to make deadlines. Stop every thirty or sixty minutes and take six deep breaths. Feel the breath enter through your nose and leave through your mouth. Feel your shoulders lift as you breathe in and release as you breathe out. Notice how your body feels after the six breaths. Are your shoulders tense or more relaxed? Hopefully, they are more relaxed. They are likely to tense up again as you resume your activity, but this is fine. The more you remember to do practice the breath meditation, the more opportunities you give your body to relax.
Remember your mind will still wander. You will stray from the task, think other thoughts. And that is perfectly normal. Everyone’s mind wanders from time to time. It is the nature of our minds and how they work. Thoughts will never cease, no matter how often we meditate.
The main thing to keep in mind is to be gentle with yourself. Mindfulness meditation is a gentle practice aimed at living a gentler and simpler life. If you forget a regular practice or you finish an activity and forget to practice mindfulness, that is ok. Start again and keep moving forward. The past is gone, the future hasn’t arrived and the present moment is all there is.
Managing uncomfortable emotions
Sometimes when you practice mindfulness by undertaking these simple techniques, emotions can arise. The emotions could be happiness, joy, sadness, anxiety or even anger. This is ok and perfectly normal. As discussed earlier, we sometimes have to sit with the discomfort of a difficult or challenging situation. This includes uncomfortable emotions. Don’t judge them, push them down or try to get rid of them. As soon as we start to do this, the emotions will only grow and eventually explode like a pressure cooker. Allow them to be. This is the aim of mindfulness.
You may gain some insight as to why you are angry or anxious as the emotions pass. No emotion is bad. They are part of who we are. In future blogs I will go into detail about different emotions, what they mean and what they aim to teach us about boundaries. However, for now it is important to allow them to surface. If you want to learn more about this topic, a great resource is The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren.
Practice mindfulness anywhere, any time
What I have described here are some simple techniques that anyone can practice, every day, any time. This is the essence of mindfulness meditation. With regular practice and a gentle outlook, the practice is simple and can be easily incorporated into everyday life, whatever you are doing.