Mindfulness - why it matters!
Mindfulness is quite simply the art of ‘deliberately paying attention’ to our experience without judgment. It means waking up out of autopilot and connecting deeply with ourselves, our families and our lives.
Cultivating a regular mindfulness practice will help to make us calmer, more centred and less distracted. A regular practice helps to ‘draw in’ and contain our scattered attention; improving the quality of our mind, our concentration, memory and peace of mind.
Without realising it, we tend to live most of our lives on auto-pilot. Many of us easily fall into conditioned, mechanical patterns of thought and behaviour - living with routines and habits that no longer benefit our health and well-being. Mindfulness helps us become aware of our habits, our thought patterns and helps us start to ‘notice’ more in our lives.
The Present Moment
The main ingredient in a mindfulness practice is ‘the present’. As we start to pay attention to the moments that make up every day we become less distracted by the future or the past and we start to enjoy the present more and more. We can practice mindfulness in every area of our lives eg; noticing the taste, the smell, the colours whilst eating a meal, instead of gobbling it down and not really noticing anything. Noticing the sensations in our body and breath as we move with awareness through our yoga practice.
It is really important to know, that during a mindfulness practice, it is completely normal for the mind to wander - there is in fact a term for the wandering mind commonly known as the ‘monkey mind’.
A lot of students come to my classes thinking that in meditation that they are expected stop their thoughts, however it is the nature of the mind to wander and all we are doing is training it to return to the present moment again and again.
It is the nature of the mind to wander...
When our mind wanders, we notice where it has gone and then gently and kindly bring our attention back to a point of focus (usually the breath, the body or a mantra). It sounds quite simple but it can be quite challenging to begin with and many people tend to give up a regular practice before they really start to reap the rewards.
If you find it particularly difficult to be still you might be better off trying a gentle yoga class to begin with. For me personally, after years of personal training and hard-core exercise where my motto was “no pain, no gain”- I found it very difficult to slow down and be still to begin with. In fact, I would usually leave the yoga class before the relaxation component, as it was just too much for me to lie still for 10 minutes!
I was committed to a regular practice of yoga class once or twice a week, meditation for 10 minutes most days and a one-hour formal meditation class each week. Eventually, I started to realise the benefits as I began to feel calmer, more connected and in touch with life - especially toward my children. My intuition and creativity sky-rocketed and I started to stop rushing towards the next thing all the time – the next holiday, the next lunch, the next, next, next. This of course benefited my family too as I encouraged us all to learn to just “be”. I definitely became more patient and kinder with myself and others.
Mindfulness has definitely lightened my mind and spirit and added a depth and quality to my life that I would never have known. I practice for 31 minutes each morning before sunrise now and I do not even rely on alarm clock to wake me. Meditating first thing in the morning sets me up for my day – focusing inward and starting my day with an intention of clarity and connection has transformed my life.
Of course, mindfulness has to be experienced - rather than described. The best way in, is to just start!
The secret for health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past,
worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present
moment wisely and earnestly”