As humans we are easily side-tracked and sometimes in the habit of examining past events and trying to anticipate the future. Being mindful enables us to become more aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensation and behaviours. This may not sound like an obviously helpful exercise but it helps us to recognise and step away from habitual, often unconscious emotional reactions to everyday events. It provides us with a researched approach to cultivating insight, clarity and understanding. By practicing mindfulness, we are allowing ourselves to be fully present in our life and work, which in turn improves our quality of life.
Mindfulness does not conflict with any beliefs or tradition, religious, cultural or scientific. It is simply a practical way to notice thoughts, physical sensations, sights, sounds, smells - anything we might not normally notice. The actual skills might be simple, but because it is so different to how our minds normally behave, it takes a lot of practice.
You might go out into the garden and look around, and think, "That grass really needs cutting, and those weeds need pulling up". Another person in the garden may notice the sound of the bees and the colour of the flowers and bring this to your attention. Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we do not normally notice, because our heads are too busy in the future or in the past - thinking about what we need to do, or going over what we have done.
Being mindful helps us to train our attention. Our minds wander about 50% of the time, but every time we practise being mindful, we are exercising our attention "muscle" and becoming mentally fitter. We can take more control over our focus of attention, and choose what we focus on, rather than passively allowing our attention to be dominated by that, which distresses us and takes us away from the present moment.
A simple description for Mindfulness could be ‘choosing and learning to control our focus of attention’.
Mindfulness for busy people:
- Choose an activity to do mindfully throughout the day, for one, two or five minutes. For example: Drink a cup of tea. Walk. Wash the dishes.
- Whatever you are doing, be in that moment, right now. See, hear, smell, touch, feel, breathe.
- Simply notice whenever other thoughts and sensations come to mind, and then re-focus on your chosen mindful activity.
- Be patient and compassionate with yourself.
- Describe… rather than judge good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant.
- It is as it is.