What is mindfulness?
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.
While mindfulness is something we all naturally possess, it’s more readily available to us when we practice on a daily basis.
Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful. And there’s growing research showing that when you train your brain to be mindful, you’re actually remodeling the physical structure of your brain. The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional, and physical processes.
What is meditation?
Meditation is exploring. It’s not a fixed destination. Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought, utterly undistracted. It’s a special place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations (air blowing on our skin or a harsh smell wafting into the room), our emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, loathe that) and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see an elephant playing a trumpet).
Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness, to ourselves and others.
How do I practice mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness is available to us in every moment, whether through meditations and body scans, or mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe when the phone rings instead of rushing to answer it.
Research and science has given us plenty of reasons to meditate, from managing stress and anxiety to promoting and improving emotional health, self-awareness and may even make you a little kinder. Or, you just may need to get away from what ever is overwhelming you at any moment. We have all felt like we can’t go find a quiet place and take a 10-minute time out. However, we can always find 1. Here’s an approach you can use.
The mindful minute
- Sit tall, with your spine straight, your ears over your shoulders, and your chin slightly tucked towards your chest.
- Place your hands on your lap or knees, what ever feels right to you.
- Lay your hands palms-up, allow your finger muscles to relax.
- Close your eyes or gaze on a spot about a foot in front of you.
- Focus on your breath, deep inhalations and slow exhalations.
- Repeat 6-8 times.
As you improve you can enhance the experience by relaxing tense areas of your body by tensing them up while breathing in, and relaxing the tension when breathing out.