Written by Sarah Loker
In recent years, the concept of mindfulness has become more and more prevalent. But what is mindfulness? What does it mean? And how does mindfulness support our health and wellbeing?
Mindfulness is about connecting with the present. It is a kind of energy that we generate when we bring our mind back to our body and get in touch with what is going on in the present moment, within us and around us. When we are fully present for ourselves and whatever we are doing, we become more aware of what is going on in our internal and external worlds, connecting us on a deeper level with ourselves and the world around us. It is through the energy of mindfulness that we are able to fully embrace and experience all of life, helping us to touch life deeply throughout the day. Through mindfulness, we are able to lead a life of connection, where we are in tune with the shifts and changes going on within us and around us. As Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh so eloquently said, "when we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
A lot of people think that mindfulness seems really hard to achieve, as if we need to be a monk and take ourselves away to a special shrine or sacred space. But the truth about mindfulness is that it can be practiced at any point in your day, through the most mundane of everyday tasks - we can practice mindfulness when we brush our teeth, wash the dishes, walk to work, eat a meal, drive a car, whilst we are standing, walking, sitting or lying down, and whilst speaking, listening, working, playing, cooking, and even simply breathing. Any moment can be made mindful, when we connect deeply with the present moment.
Below are some ideas for how you can incorporate more mindfulness into your day to day experience, becoming more present, connected, and happier in the process:
One of the easiest ways to bring more mindfulness into your day to day life is to become more mindful of your breathing. In fact, our breath can be considered the door to the present moment. Breathing is so vital and important for us to stay alive, yet the vast majority of us go through our days not even aware that we are taking a breath! This is because the act of breathing is completely automatic, it happens without us having to think about it. As our mind is constantly being pulled either by the past or future, rarely allowing us to rest in the now, this can lead to a disconnection from our breath, which in turn leads to a sense of disconnection from ourselves, and from the present moment. Every breath we take brings a wonderful opportunity to pause and observe ourselves in the very present moment we are experiencing.
When you breathe mindfully, you bring your whole body and mind into harmony, concentrating on the wonder of the breath. As we breathe in, we simply become aware that we are breathing in, and as we breathe out, we become aware that we are breathing out. Focusing on the breath as it flows naturally in and out of the body brings us back to the present moment. We arrive in our body in the here and now. You can think of the breath as an anchor which helps to keep us steady and rooted in the present moment, and we can come back to our breath every time we need a moment to pause, to reset, and recentre. Our breathing is the stable, solid ground that is always there for us to take refuge in. Whenever we are carried away by regret about something that has happened, or swept away in our fears and anxiety about the future, we can return to our breathing, and re-establish ourselves in the present moment once more.
It’s common knowledge that walking is great for our physical and mental health. But did you know that walking can be a form of mindfulness? It is possible to arrive in the present moment in every step - wherever we walk, we can practice meditation.
Walking meditation involves walking in a way that we know we are walking. When we become aware of the contact of our feet on the ground, and the movement of our body as we walk, we set ourselves free from our thinking, and become truly present. When we walk mindfully, we tune in to the world around us, allowing our senses to explore. When we walk in this way, every step can be nourishing, and every step can be healing.
This mindfulness technique is great to practice with a trusted loved one, friend, a pet or even a tree! When we hug, our hearts connect, and we understand that we are not separate beings. Hugging meditation involves holding each other intently and breathing together. You can stay hugging for anywhere from as long as 3 deep breaths, up to 5 minutes. Hugging with mindfulness and concentration can bring about reconciliation, healing, understanding, and happiness. By focusing intently on the feeling of holding the other person and connecting deeply with this loving act, we are deeply connecting with the present moment and with each other, which can bring about a decrease in feelings of stress, worry, anxiety and isolation.
If you feel inspired to incorporate mindfulness into your life, come along to a new regular weekly class at The Studio - Studio: Mindfulness (starting Wednesday 11th October and every following Wednesday, 5:30-6:15pm). This class is a chance to disconnect from the pace of the modern world, and reconnect with yourself on a deeper level. In the class we will explore the power of guided meditation, breathwork, mindful movement, guided relaxation and mindfulness teachings to tap into the present moment. This class is suitable for complete beginners or for those with a regular mindfulness practice. To find out more, please go here - https://www.thestudiobartlow.co.uk/service-page/studio-mindfulness?referral=service_list_widget
‘The Art of Living’ by Thich Nhat Hanh, p9