Mindfulness is living in the now. It is about being fully engaged in whatever is happening around you and within you. Have you ever eaten a bar of chocolate and then suddenly noticed that it’s all gone and you hardly remember eating it? Or have you been on a car journey and realized when you reached your destination that you have no awareness of large parts of the drive. I have!
This is a state often referred to as ‘autopilot’. When we are not paying attention to what we are doing, our brain clicks off into autopilot. Instead of being present, we are daydreaming, thinking about things we have to do or thinking about things that happened in the past or what may happen in the future. Research shows that the average person is in autopilot 47% of the time. This means that we are not fully present or ‘there’ in our own lives for a large part of the time. We fail to notice the beauty of the world around us, we fail to listen to our bodies and we can get stuck in ways of thinking that are not good for us. Being in autopilot is not a bad thing in itself. In fact it’s good to daydream and make plans. It’s an important part of being human. The trouble is we spend too much time in autopilot. We are constantly busy getting “stuff done” and thinking about things instead of really living. Research shows that the more we live our lives on autopilot the less happy we are.
Mindfulness wakes us out of the autopilot state. Mindfulness is about being aware of the present: of our thoughts, our surroundings, our bodies, our feelings, other people. It is about living in the ‘now’! It’s a technique that heightens our senses and curiosity. When we are really present to anything that we are doing we are more likely to be in flow, to be creative and be happier in ourselves.
Living fully in the present moment.
Reading and talking about mindfulness won’t make us mindful. We need to do it. Let’s start with a little meditation.
Close your eyes and listen
mindfully to all the sounds around you.
For one minute
I’m a coffee addict! Every morning I start my day with a cup of rich, ground coffee. If it’s not raining I sit outside and after a few sips of my delicious brew I do this little meditation. I close my eyes and listen – to the birds singing, a car passing, a dog barking. In particular I hear the different sounds coming from the birds. The experience grounds me, connects me with nature and I always feel good afterwards. It’s a great start to a new day.
Sit comfortably and relax.
Close your eyes.
Become aware of your breath
As you inhale and exhale.
Let distracting thoughts float by
Just be in the moment ….
Dr. Keith Gaynor, author of Protecting Mental Health, has a wonderful chapter in his book called Mindful Living. He writes:
“As you sit there, focusing on your breathing, there is a fair chance that your mind will be on anything but your breathing. It will be on work, home, the shopping, the kids. …….. We are trying to be quiet and relaxed, and yet our minds have never seemed so loud.”
Thoughts will come into your mind as you meditate. It’s normal and happens to everyone who meditates. The trick is not to give them attention. Recognise them as thoughts and let them float by (like little clouds or butterflies). With practice this becomes easier. Mindfulness is not about perfection; it’s about being kind and compassionate to ourselves, here and now, in our lives.
It took me a while to get “into” the practice of mindfulness: distractions, being too busy etc. But the more I incorporated little meditations into my life, the better I felt. The effects are often subtle: having a calmness inside, being grateful for my life as it is now, being less judgemental and critical, enjoying the beauty of nature and the world around me and really enjoying (and appreciating) the time I spend with family and friends. Life is really a series of little moments. Practicing mindfulness has helped me to be present and “in” them rather than racing past!!
“Mindfulness is an understanding that, as imperfect as any day may be, we are living it now and we should seek out the magic this moment might bring.”
Dr. Keith Gaynor