Mindfulness: The Quiet Revolution
GLO Magazine, February 2017
By Beth Behrendt
photo courtesy GLO Magazine
Have you heard yet about “mindfulness?” It’s a term getting a lot of coverage at the moment: book covers, magazine articles, TV shows, school presentations, yoga classes and beyond. But what does “being mindful” really mean?
Essentially, it’s the mind being attuned to what you are experiencing right now: what’s happening, where you are, what you are feeling in this specific moment?
Mindful Magazine, www.mindful.org, defined it: “Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
That may seem like a natural state, right? But how often have you driven somewhere only to discover yourself at your destination—but with no recollection of the turns and stops you took to get there? (Because your mind “was somewhere else.”) Or pleasantly “hmmmhmm-ing” in response to your child, but actually worrying about what went wrong at work and the emails you need to write ASAP. In other words, you’re not tuned in to your surroundings and not hearing a word your child is really saying. No guilt. We’ve all been there.
There are also the all-so-engrossing regrets from the past or worries about the future that can pull your mind into many lost minutes (or even hours) of your day.
These are all examples of NOT being mindful. What are we missing by not being fully present in each moment as we experience it?
To best understand what mindfulness is, give it a try. It is a mental state that can be encouraged to occur much more frequently in our daily lives. It takes many shapes and can go by other names, like prayer or meditation. But it must be practiced.
A simple way to begin is to insert short pauses into everyday life. Try this “posture practice” to find a moment away from the hectic pace of life.
•Sit on a stable chair, not perching on the edge or slumping back.
•Plant both of your feet flat on the floor.
•Straighten your upper body, but allow the spine to have its natural curve. Feel your head and shoulders being supported by your vertebrae.
•Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Then let your hands drop onto the tops of your legs without hunching forward.
•Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. You can close your eyes or just don’t allow your gaze to focus.
•Breathe slowly and feel the breath as it goes in and out of our body. As your mind wanders to other sensations or thoughts, gently remind it to focus on the sensation of breathing.
•Stay here for a few seconds or a few minutes. Then go back to the task at hand.
By training ourselves in mindfulness or related practices, we rewire our brains, boosting concentration and reducing stress. Improving insight into the workings of our own minds also opens our minds to being more compassionate and patient with others.