What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple practice that uses the senses, body and breath to bring our awareness into the present moment. It is estimated that we have between 50,000 - 70,000 thoughts per day, which run continuously in the background...in our subconscious. This process is perfectly natural as our brain is designed to think, but if we have developed negative self-talk due to challenging life experiences, this habitual thinking can have a detrimental effect on our well-being as our thinking determines how we feel about ourselves and how we perceive the world around us.
This is where the miracle of Mindfulness comes into play. By noticing our environment in minute detail; its sights, sounds, smells and sensations, we can bring our awareness into the present moment and experience ourselves physically. By becoming aware of our breath, the sensations in our body, our emotions and ultimately our thoughts, we can experience actually BEING in the present moment rather than just IMAGINING our existence in our minds.
The more time we spend physically experiencing the present moment and noticing our thoughts, the more control we can have over the kind of thoughts that enter our mind. Mindfulness helps to bring subconscious thoughts into awareness, which enables us to re-programme the way we think and change negative thought patterns into positive ones. This is why Mindfulness is one of the most effective treatments for depression and anxiety.
Our breath, body and senses are our medicine and are key to experiencing peace and contentment in our lives. This is why we practice Kundalini Yoga mindfully.
How Mindfulness can make us feel whole by helping us to accept all aspects of ourselves
The universe is full of polarities: ying & yang, positive & negative, male & female, night & day. They are all different aspects of the same thing. One could not exist without the other so how could one be better than the other? Yet in western society, we categorise negative emotions as bad, which makes us want to run away from or deny them. If they do catch up with us, we fight them away by anaesthetising them or trying to analyse their source, which only takes us deeper into despair. The last thing we do is talk openly about it, as depression is still considered something of a taboo. But when we suffer in silence, feelings can fester giving us a distorted perception of ourselves and our external world.
Whatever we do not bring into the light, whatever we keep in the darkness,
ends up controlling us Dr Henry Cloud
But if we did not experience low moods, we would not be human. They are actually an essential part of our human experience and have a variety of purposes such as waking us up to unresolved issues in our lives or making us realise that there is more to life than we are currently experiencing. Depression is a powerful way to make us pay attention. It can also be a gift as it is often followed by expanded states of consciousness...enlightenment.
The wound is the place where the light enters you Rumi
So should negativity not be considered our friend rather than the enemy? If we brought it into the light and thought of it as a guide, rather than a deserter, would we be able to embrace it, realising it comes bearing gifts? If we were more accepting and open about how we felt, would the frequency and severity of depression lessen to a degree?
I believe the answers to these questions can be found in the practice of Mindfulness.
By bringing our awareness into the present moment, we are invited to accept every emotion and experience in each moment without judgement. By being fully present with total awareness, we free ourselves of the ruminating thoughts that fuel depression and open ourselves to its gifts. Without resistance, suffering is alleviated and life begins to flow, allowing us to feel the full range of emotions in our human experience.
How to practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be practiced every day of your life and at any moment as it can be incorporated into your daily routine. It is practiced by paying attention to the task at hand. When you are eating your breakfast, think ‘I am eating my breakfast’. Using your senses, enjoy each mouthful. This also makes it taste better and provides greater nutritional value. When your mind wanders, which it inevitably will, keep bringing it back to the smell, taste and look of your food, mouthful by mouthful.
Try doing a chore mindfully that you are not keen on and notice how your perception of that task changes and how good you feel having practiced your meditation and crossed that chore off your list!
When you feel emotional, become aware of the pattern of your breath. You will notice that it has quickened and is more shallow. The mind follows the breath, so by slowing down and deepening your breath, you can slow down your mind and bring your thoughts into awareness. Tell yourself over and over: ‘It’s ok, let me feel it’. Notice how those feelings lose their intensity as they are brought into the light - into a space of acceptance.
Whilst practicing yoga, keep your mind on the movement of your body, its sensations and the journey of your breath. Your yoga practice is valuable time for you to break free from the stresses and obligations of everyday life. Giving yourself time out creates space in your mind, staying mindful increases the benefits of the practice and together they allow you to return to your life feeling refreshed and rejuvenated with greater clarity of mind.
But above all, do not judge yourself if you find these practices challenging sometimes. It is expected and perfectly normal. Every day is different. We are different from moment to moment. Accept all of your thoughts, feelings and experiences exactly as they are. Be kind to yourself and know that each moment is a new opportunity to start afresh.
If you would like any help or advice with your practice, do get in touch.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate on the present moment
The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it
Give yourself permission to allow this moment to be exactly as it is, and allow yourself to be exactly as you are