Mindfulness is a way of being in the world, of being present to what is, engaged with the moment, free from judgement and agenda.
Sounds nice and simple doesn’t it? But what’s simple isn’t always easy. Our busy lives can lead to busy heads, and a busy head can be everywhere except in the present moment.
Our attention can be on past events or a way ahead into the future. Quite often, it’s in some fictitious place having imaginary conversations with someone we’re vexed with or some such scenario!
The practices of Mindfulness are a way of training the mind to focus on what’s current in this moment, to take notice of what’s within and around us. By practicing returning to the present, we flex our ‘focus muscle’ and in time become much better at choosing to attend to the moment over attending to the past, future, or any other issue that we can’t actually change at this moment.
Mindfulness practices include the body scan, breath awareness, self-compassion and loving kindness and gratitude practices. Each has its own quality and intention. Each can be used formally or informally. Each are equally as valuable to the novice or seasoned practitioner.
The beauty of a Mindfulness Practice is you don’t have to have any particular belief system to apply it. It can be secular or nonsecular, as you wish because Mindfulness is about attending to what is.
The body scan is a methodical practice of attending to the sensations of the body, without judging them as good or bad, painful or comfortable, simply acknowledging the feelings in each part of the body. You can start with the feet and work upwards, or start at the top of your head and work downwards, you might even begin with your belly and radiate your attention outwards from there. You might find your attention wander off to other concerns. This is normal. When you notice that your mind has shifted its attention elsewhere, simply bring it back to the last place you were in your body and continue your body scan. Try not to be discouraged by this happening. You can look at ti as another ‘flex’ of your ‘focus muscle’ thereby strengthening it each time you return your awareness from another place!
Breath Awareness is another practice that helps to anchor our awareness in the moment. While following the breath into and out of the body, it’s hard to focus on anything else. The breath is also very responsive to stress and also relaxation. The more stressed we become the shorter and faster our breath gets. As we relax, our breathing becomes slower, deeper and much more effective. There is a curious phenomenon that occurs when we pay attention to the breath – it naturally begins to slow down, which in turn triggers the ‘relax response’ or parasympathetic nervous system. This is the antidote to stress. By deliberately slowing down your breathing rate, gently and with intention, you intercept stress and your body responds with relaxation.
Self-compassion and loving kindness are practices that promote compassion to the self and also to others. By being kinder towards ourselves, we naturally become gentler and kinder to others. Loving Kindness practices are a beautiful way to connect with ourselves and with others in a peaceful and calming way.
Gratitude Practice helps us to see the glass half full instead of half empty. No matter how bad things are in our lives, there is always something to be grateful for. It might not be obvious to us while our focus is on what is upsetting us, but by deliberately choosing to take a moment to be mindful of even one thing that is good in this moment, we get the opportunity to broaden our awareness into the bigger picture. It is often very simple things that we can be grateful for. By establishing a habit of being grateful, we can, with practice, make it our default.
We have a variety of Guided Practices available on the page that you can follow. There is also a live weekly drop in session called ‘The Mindful Café’ that you are invited to join to enhance your practice and connect you with other practitioners.