Author: Maria Gorina
About the book
Have you ever tried peeling potatoes, giving yourself to this activity with all your fullness and strength? Have you tried to play with your child the way children play: putting aside thoughts about work, forgetting about the phone and immersing yourself in the construction of a Lego castle? Have you tried listening to your partner, focusing on his words, emotions, voice, and not on your thoughts?
Mindfulness, or mindfulness, is the ability to be here and now, feeling the fullness of life. This skill not only makes us healthier, happier and more stress-resistant, it gives us back our lives – those hours and minutes that we did not live properly, lost in our thoughts.
This article is a brief guide to mindfulness: from the body, emotions and thoughts to actions and relationships. Read and live to the fullest!
What is mindfulness or mindfulness
Consciously make a decision, consciously conduct a dialogue, consciously drive a car, consciously play with a child … What does all this mean? Isn’t there a hint in this that we live in an unconscious state and we need a special practice to live “in ourselves”? It seems so.
We spend a significant part of our lives “on the machine”, existing more in our heads than in reality. We eat while browsing our Facebook feed; driving while listening to a podcast; making love, planning a meeting tomorrow. A beautiful sunset over the ocean cannot distract us from the absorbing dialogue with our inner critic and living through the failure that happened a year ago. It is no wonder that our life, taking place at this particular moment, brings us so little pleasure and satisfaction.
At the same time, everyone has experienced the state of awareness at least once in their lives.
Try to remember a situation when you felt at the cutting edge of the moment, with full presence and immersion in a particular second. What was it? The birth of a child, the finish of a marathon, the moment of the death of a mother, a few seconds before a car collides, an exciting feeling of complete unity with nature on top of a mountain …How to live mindfully through meditation
It is usually an out-of-the-ordinary experience, in which time disappears altogether or lengthens dramatically when a second seems like ten minutes. The most diverse episodes or cases that you just remembered are united by your state: maximum concentration on the moment, readiness to accept it and live in it “as is”, lack of assessments and judgments.
This state is called “mindfulness” or “mindfulness” (from the English mindfulness – mindfulness). Three key points here:
Mindfulness develops through regular awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, as well as awareness of what is happening in the external environment. It includes acceptance, or the ability to nonjudgmentally observe your thoughts and feelings, not to divide them into “good” and “bad”, “right” and “wrong”. By practicing mindfulness, people focus on what exactly they are experiencing at a particular moment, without being distracted by thoughts about the past or the future.
Awareness is organic to human nature, this mechanism is already built into us. It is not so much learning as remembering our experience and extending it to a significant part of life.
Why Practice Mindfulness
A conscious attitude makes our life richer, brighter, more intense. By living consciously, we live longer, because the duration of life is measured not by the number of years lived, but by the volume and intensity of the experience gained and integrated . Your ability to immerse yourself in your own life and consciously perceive every minute returns life to its true value.
Daniel Goleman, in his latest book, Altered Mind, written with Richard Davidson, presents the results of many years of studying the brain of people with different levels of experience in meditation (mindfulness practice). Obviously, meditation develops the ability to concentrate. But this was known even before scientific experiments.
The most amazing discovery was the scientifically proven fact that with the help of meditation, areas of the prefrontal cortex develop. That is, the very part of the brain that makes a person a person. The cortex is responsible for planning, organization, will, responsibility. Here are located the centers responsible for the level of development of emotional intelligence. Meditation improves communication between the amygdala (our reptilian part of the brain, which produces immediate “fight or flight” responses) and the prefrontal cortex. People who practice mindfulness are more resistant to stress, perceive the environment and living conditions more harmoniously, and are generally healthier. But not only!Goleman’s team discovered that long-term mindfulness practice of certain types of meditation (Loving Kindness, Compassion) literally makes a person kinder and more compassionate!
Another amazing discovery made by Goleman and Davidson is that 1,000 to 10,000 hours of total mindfulness practice (including both regular personal practice and intensive weekly retreats with an experienced teacher) integrates characteristics temporarily acquired after meditation into stable qualities of a person. Thus, concentration, balance, harmony with the world, kindness and compassion can be developed as your personal qualities through meditation .
How to develop mindfulness
Observation “from the side” of all manifestations of life inside and outside of you is a setting that is important to activate as often as possible. To develop mindfulness, become an attentive observer who is very passionate about the subject of observation, but impartial.
The observer can live only in the “now”, there is no past for him, the future has not come – there is already or still nothing to observe in them. Your awareness is strengthened with every second of your direct existence in the present and connection with reality. Inhale-exhale – breathing now, birds chirping – sound now, pain in the knee – feeling now, tickling in the stomach and joyfully in anticipation – emotion now.
It is possible to conditionally distinguish several spheres of conscious human existence:
- awareness of the body
- awareness of emotions and feelings,
- action awareness,
- relationship awareness.
Everything starts with the body
Body awareness is the basic fundamental level of awareness. Our physical body perfectly connects us with the present, because it is simply unable to exist in any other planes. In addition, the body is a tuning fork for other areas of our manifestation: emotions, thoughts, actions, even relationships. We feel a lump in the throat from resentment, butterflies in the stomach in anticipation of tomorrow’s event, we feel warmth throughout the body, communicating with a loved one. Often understanding bodily sensations and being able to notice them leads us to a deeper understanding of ourselves. But not only. Connection with the body and basic sense organs makes our life brighter, richer, healthier.
Unfortunately, in today’s world we live at a distance from the body, spending more time planning for something that will never come true than watching and experiencing bodily sensations in reality . “Lost in thought” – this is the definition given to the world today by the Buddhist monk Ajahn Buddhadasa. We visit our body only a few times a day, remembering it in case of pain or special experience. Food, sex, walking, movement – all this, intended by nature to replenish our positive energy, is either completely ignored by us, or perceived as an ordinary, unworthy phenomenon.
Most meditation traditions see mindfulness of the body as the essential foundational practice upon which all mindfulness is built. This can be observation of breathing, individual parts of the body, sounds, smells, conscious nutrition or movement, scanning the whole body. There are many practices, the essence is the same – to develop the ability to concentrate and realize the experience that is happening here and now with your body.
What to do with emotions?
This is the second area of manifestation of our human nature, which needs attention. Someone believes that there are never too many emotions, others are sure that emotions are the lot of the weak. Regardless of your beliefs, feelings and emotions are part of your human nature that needs to be acknowledged.
Our reaction to feelings and emotions is inherited from the family and cultural environment, that is, most often we did not even choose it and follow it subconsciously. Not surprisingly, emotions and feelings are one of the least known areas to us, which we are often afraid to approach.
The most common reactions of modern man in relation to emotions: suppression, avoidance and manifestation. None of these reactions is constructive. The manifestation (of negative emotions) harms our relationships and multiplies negative energy. Suppression and avoidance lead to accumulation of stress, health problems and addictions such as alcoholism or life in front of the TV. At the same time, one cannot give the psyche an order to suppress only emotions that we do not like, and keep those that are pleasant to us. If you follow this way of dealing with the senses, over time it will lead to a state of numbness and insensitivity.
What to do with emotions and feelings? To begin with, to realize that emotion, like physical pain, comes in order to tell us something important . If we pretend that we are not at home, or immediately get rid of the visitor, we will not hear the message.
1. Open the door and say hello.
- Got a feeling of discomfort? Is emotion knocking on your door? Pause. Listen to your body, feel what emotion it is talking about.
- Open your mind to this emotion: “I feel…”.
- Name and greet her: “Good afternoon, rage, there you are!”
2. Let into the house.
- Allow the emotions to manifest within with all their might. Feel how it manifests itself in the body, notice the thoughts that arise associated with it. Don’t let thoughts carry you away. Observe the visitor from the side in the same way as the owner of the house observes the guest.
- At this stage, there may be shame for the emotion, a desire to drive it away or express it. There is nothing to be ashamed of – this is just a visitor to your home. He needs your attention and help.
- “What do you want to tell me?” It can be information about danger, a cry for help from your pride, the pain of losing something important …
- “What do I believe that gave rise to this emotion?” For example, “I believe in my weakness, so I’m afraid to fail in the negotiations.” Or “I believe that my loved ones do not love me, therefore I am offended by any word.”
- You don’t have to do anything, just listen to your visitor.
4. Drink tea and take care.
- You can physically support yourself by placing your hand on the part of your body that feels the emotion keenly, or by putting your arm around your shoulders.
- Remember that your visitor is a part of you that is currently experiencing an emotion: it needs care and love, not reproaches and criticism.
- Perhaps the visitor will be pleased to drink a cup of tea or listen to music.
5. Release with peace and gratitude.
- Thank and dismiss the visitor: “Thank you, anger! I understand what you wanted to tell me… , I can hear you. Thank you for the information. You can be free.”
- Of course, after the visit, you will still feel the presence of the visitor for some time. But its influence will no longer be sharp and heavy. And pretty quickly it will be replaced by something more relevant. Most importantly, this visitor will not need to knock on your door again and again to be heard. He will come again, but with a new occasion and a new message.
I think, therefore I exist?
Descartes stood at the foundations of rationalism – the modern “lost in thoughts” world. In fact, he put an equal sign between the concept of “I” and “thought”. To step away from this mindset is one of the major challenges to mindfulness. We are attached to the process of thinking, to individual thoughts, we take them on faith and consider the ability to think or produce thoughts as the main dignity of a person. Is it true that each of us is just a collection of thoughts?
Try to answer this question yourself, observing thoughts from the outside. Thoughts are clouds in the firmament of consciousness. They can take on different shapes, shapes, be light or ominous, they can fly by quickly or hang in heavy clouds for a long time. Our brains are designed to generate thoughts. But is it worth associating yourself with them?
As you watch your thoughts, you will find that they can be grouped into channels, a countable number. These can be the channels “I’m a bad parent”, “What to wear tomorrow?”, “Hated mother-in-law”, “What’s the plan?” etc. Everyone has their own set. These channels are not only repeated, as on TV, but they also broadcast outdated news. Most often, thoughts are born as a result of an unlived emotion or feeling and are repeated until the emotion loses its relevance. Thoughts are tied to the past or future, and occasionally to the present. And the worst thing is that our thoughts are rarely related to reality and they cannot be taken for granted. But if you completely associate yourself with your thoughts, it is very difficult to question them.or be verified. And in this case, the position of the observer can help to realize the true nature, one’s own and thoughts.
There is a common misconception that meditation is the complete absence of thoughts. You cannot stop your brain from producing thoughts – its job is the same as the heart’s job is to pump blood. But you can detach yourself from thoughts, stop associating yourself with a thought process, a channel, or a separate thought. This is the task of mindfulness .
Consciousness of actions
When it comes to meditation, most of us have the image of a sage sitting in a lotus position, completely disconnected from worldly fuss. Yes, and the practice of meditation most often requires time outside of normal life activity. So? Not really. Real mindfulness practice takes place outside of your solitary chair. Every minute of life can be turned into this practice. Whether it’s lunch or tea, a conversation with a colleague or house cleaning.
It is enough to concentrate on one specific case, watching your actions from the outside, maintaining your presence here and now. If you’re eating breakfast, focus on the smell, color, and taste of your morning coffee, sandwich, and fruit salad. Try to feel all the aroma and freshness of the products. Try to distinguish what exactly now fell into the zone of your taste buds. If you are playing with a child, put away your smartphone and turn off the TV, try to immerse yourself in the world of the game entirely, leaving no part of yourself at work or household chores and quarrels. This is how children play.
In the age of multitasking and lack of time, this sounds like an unaffordable luxury and just a waste of time. However, the quality of your life depends much more on the depth of contact with each second than on the number of events and activities per unit of time. Conscious walks, playing with children, talking with parents, moments of intimacy with a partner are the real value of our life, the basis of its fullness.
In addition to the awareness of the actions themselves, you can also arrange moments of awareness in the flow of affairs. These are stops for one or two minutes to contact reality. Wherever you are, no matter what you are doing, you can always stop, close your eyes, take three deep breaths and slow exhalations and ask yourself: “What is my body feeling now?”, “What is the atmosphere around, I am warm, cold, neutral ? Three or four such pauses a day can change the level of your connection with reality, give you the strength to continue. Try it.
Awareness of relationships
A real relationship is an absolute value for most people. Real family, real friends, real company. And what do we mean by this definition, are we able to create and maintain its meaning? Many meditation traditions help to cultivate motivation and the ability to build relationships the way we want them to be. Including relationships with ourselves. Earlier in the article, research by Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson was mentioned, proving that the modification of personal qualities is possible with the help of these practices.
Forgiving yourself and others allows you to clear the blockages of unlived grievances and remove the protective armor from the heart. It is necessary to forgive first of all for yourself, because the offender often does not realize the depth and severity of our resentment, and if he offended us intentionally, he does not suffer from our resentment the way we do. Forgiveness does not require apologies, only the intention to live in peace with yourself and others. Forgiveness can sound out loud or inside, the main thing is that it fulfills your desire to move on, getting out of the swamp of resentment.
Gratitude is the ability to notice all the good things that life has given you. The ability to feel, see, move, eat delicious food, live in a warm home with all the comforts – even these simple joys are enough for gratitude. Buddhists believe that gratitude is a habit that can be developed intentionally. Possibly the most useful one known. Gratitude can be directed both outward: to familiar and unfamiliar people, nature, fate, and inward: gratitude to oneself for caring, following values, sincerity. Seek and you will find plenty of reasons to be grateful every day.
Loving kindness is the energy of love and kindness that you mentally send into the world. When the blockages of resentment are cleared and the capacity for gratitude is tuned, you can move on to the practice of loving kindness. Gradually, your mood and mental wish for good to relatives, friends and strangers, pleasant and unpleasant people will turn into a way of thinking and behavior. You will notice that relationships with people change to warmer and more open. Loving-kindness involves the evolution of a willingness to receive and desire good: first to those we love, and then to those we know personally; those whom we consider an enemy; and later to everyone who lives with us on this planet. One of the hardest things to accept is ourselves. This is a very important step in relationship practices: learning to love, accept yourself, and treat yourself with kindness.
Of course, there are many more mindfulness practices than will fit in this article. The purpose of mindfulness is not to collect them, but to develop the ability to be in touch with reality, at peace with yourself and others. Try these, look for new ones, use the most suitable for you. The main thing is not to stop after a couple of attempts with the words: “I can’t do it, this is not for me.” Mindfulness is a skill that takes time, constant use, and attention. Everything will work out.