What is mindfulness? How do we do it? Why should we try it?
Mindfulness; it’s often something we associate with Buddhism, monks and monasteries. Something that we distance ourselves from, something that’s not meant for us. Mindfulness is seen as part of a religion, spiritual practice or perhaps these days, part of a ‘New Age’ trend. Though in reality, mindfulness is something much simpler, much more relatable and essential in all of our lives. It is our natural state of being.
We are born into this world in mindfulness and for the most part, we live our younger childhood years in mindfulness. That’s not to say that I came out of the womb meditating, or that I practiced breathing exercises as a small child. But I was aware, I was present and I wasn’t stuck in my own head, drowning in thoughts. As a child, all of my senses were fully in gear and in use. My eyes captured every little detail, each glimpse of sunlight, every colour on the wing of a butterfly. I felt the earth between my toes and the bark through my fingertips. I breathed in the scent of home-cooked meals and enjoyed the flavours on the tip of my tongue. I heard each voice, listened to each song and admired every bird call. I was aware as a child, in a natural state of mindfulness.
That is what mindfulness is when it comes down to it, it is our natural mental state. Awareness of ourselves and what’s around us. Awareness of life, conscious living. It is the natural and most beautiful way to live our lives, to experience this world, hence why we do it as children without any effort or consciousness. Through growing up, through the experiences we have and the things we are taught, many of us withdraw and begin to live life unnaturally, in our heads. Does life exist in our heads, in a sea of thoughts? Or does it exist outside of our minds, in the world around us?
Mindfulness restores that childlike state, that awe at the world around us, that real-life feeling. The most prominent memory I have from my childhood is simply a feeling of reality. Do you ever look back to your childhood and think, things just felt real, solid, clear, defined. Whereas now, maybe things feel a little bit blurred, dazed and confusing. Is that state, that familiar yet fleeting real-life feeling, not a state we want to be in? Is that not how we want to experience our lives? The answer is surely yes but then what’s stopping us?
We have discussed some possible answers to that question a few times on the blog. Pain and suffering (Living In Our Heads #2 The Home of Mental Illness), Social Media (Social Media & Mental Illness), The fast pace of our lives (Just Be). All of these and many things we have not yet discussed are contributing factors to our mental state, contributing factors in our choice to live life in the mind or in the world. Simply put, for the purpose of this post, the world we have created, the systems we live in, the people we know, the experiences we have and a lack of awareness to it all, unconsciously forces us from out to in, from reality to fiction, from life to mind.
So, though mindfulness may seem like some distant thing, unrelatable and un-useful, it actually begins as our ticket, our passage back to that natural state of awareness, and then becomes a conscious way of life, before becoming our natural default state. When we reach this last stage, when we have re-learned how to be, we are so used to being alert and aware, that there is no effort involved in maintaining it, just as there is no effort needed to get stuck in our heads now. Through continued practice, we flip the table. Presence and awareness of life become easy and getting stuck in our heads becomes difficult.
Mindfulness is for everyone, each and every single one of us. It is for the suit in the city and the shaman in Africa. It is for the white van man and the stressed-out student. It is for the yogi on the mountain and the teacher in the school, the sportsman on the field and the actor on the stage. Mindfulness, when seen for what it really is, a natural and healthy mental state can be adopted by and be hugely beneficial to anyone.
The benefits brought about by this state of presence are numerous. First off, it will greatly reduce and eventually eliminate mental illness if done properly and consistently. Acknowledging the fact that mental illness occurs in the mind, we can appreciate that being free from the trappings of our own head, can greatly improve our mental health. Illnesses like depression and anxiety can be eliminated. Worry, fear and stress can be reduced to their most basic and reactionary forms. Problems turn into solutions, perspectives shift and overthinking is ended.
Life becomes enhanced with mindfulness, the awareness to what’s around us and our clear perspective of life, allows us to experience the beauty in the world, through each of our senses, enhancing our experience of life, creating greater joy and overall happiness.
We can have greater focus, more energy and drive, through mindfulness. Being stuck in our heads is mentally draining, it fatigues us greatly. Relieve that fatigue and we feel fresh, awake and alive, revitalized by the lifted weight. With this lightness, we can go forward each day with more ease and vitality.
I would 100% recommend mindfulness to everyone I know, it is changing my life because it is changing my mind. I am not a monk on a mountain, I am not Buddhist, I am not religious but mindfulness is for me, it is my natural state of being.
So, how do we do it? If you are interested in trying a few mindfulness techniques, then please check out our page on how to be mindful. We have some practices on there that we have tried and that we find really work. We will be continually adding techniques to the page, so make sure to check back. I’d also highly recommend a book by Tiddy Rowan called The Little Book of Mindfulness, it contains lots of practical tips and advice on how to be mindful and is perfect for anyone looking to practice mindfulness. It is available to purchase through the link.
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