Mindfulness is often misunderstood.
People are often misinformed.
What comes to your mind when you think of Mindfulness?
Sitting in a quiet room for hours?
Being in the ‘present moment’ is the first thing people tend to hear about Mindfulness.
Bringing your attention to the now, being conscious, being aware.
Embracing the present moment instead of living in the past or the future.
That’s all well and good, and Mindfulness is about those things.
But what does being consciously aware of the present moment look like? And how on earth do you go about doing it?
Switching off our minds to focus on the leaves in the trees and the wind in the air is not easy. Our minds are trained to be constantly on.
Bringing your mind to the present moment and keeping it there without getting distracted is challenging.
Our whole lives are spent training our minds to be thinking. Problem solving. Solution creating. Task completing. Multi-tasking. Planning. Analysing. Ruminating.
In a nutshell, Mindfulness is about being able to control the placement of our attention.
To have the ability to direct our attention to where it is best placed.
The ability to control our attention takes time and practise, but the benefits of doing so are endless.
Before I go into how great Mindfulness is, lets remove some myths that surround it.
Myths of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is often perceived as hours and hours of sitting in the lotus position (see image above), with your arms resting on your knees humming and moving into a different spiritual land.
I do not practise Mindfulness in this way. I am not saying this isn’t Mindfulness, I am saying it’s not the only way.
Here is a short list of what Mindfulness is not…
- Being constantly at one with yourself, nature and the universe
- Always having a clear and calm mind
- Spending hours and hours sitting in the lotus position meditating
- Living a peaceful and easy life without issue
- Being devoid of deep emotions, thoughts and feelings
- Adopting the Buddhist religion and living on a retreat as a Monk
These are all misconceptions.
Misconceptions derived from the origins of Mindfulness. The origins of Mindfulness are incredibly important and many people practise Mindfulness today in the exact same way it was practised thousands of years ago.
Mindfulness has however evolved considerably to hold a very firm place in modern day society.
The involvement of Mindfulness in scientific research has provided evidence to suggest the daily practise of Mindfulness has the potential to alter the physical structure of our brain.
These findings have brought Mindfulness into the modern world and it is now commonly viewed through a scientific lens and it regularly exists in people’s lives as a combination of science and spirituality.
The spirituality element of Mindfulness is huge for many, but for some Mindfulness can purely be an exercise practised from a scientific perspective.
When practising Mindfulness, it is important that you find the right approach for you.
Find the path that fits with who you are. If spirituality is important to you then learn about the spiritual side to Mindfulness, if you don’t connect with the spiritual elements then it is ok to focus exclusively on the scientific aspects.
What is Mindfulness?
We know Mindfulness can be both spiritual and scientific.
The approach you take is up to you, but I believe the outcome will be very similar.
Mindfulness is about creating space.
Creating space in your mind so thoughts and emotions have the room to move, the room to be truly heard and the room to be processed well.
To live a life with more consideration to help improve our purpose, balance and wellness.
Mindfulness is simple.
But it is not easy.
It is easy to give up on Mindfulness as it can feel like you aren’t doing it right, or that you aren’t any good at it.
It takes a short time to begin practising Mindfulness effectively, but a long time to truly master.
But, when practised daily you will begin to notice a shift. You will notice the effect that Mindfulness has on your brain. You will notice a change in your emotional reactivity.
The benefits of Mindfulness
Following a daily practise of Mindfulness over a period of time can have the following benefits:
- Improved sleep
- Increased attention span
- Lower levels of stress
- Reduced anxiety and feelings of overwhelm
- Improved relationships
- More confidence and higher self esteem
- Improved overall health and well-being
Including a daily practise of Mindfulness (even for a few minutes!) can lead us to living lives with less emotional reactivity. Allowing us to experience more frequent moments of joy and happiness through feeling more confident and self-aware.
Overall, the end goal of practising Mindfulness is the ability to take your mind out of intrusive thoughts, racing emotions and anxieties and put your mind into the present moment.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness”
Viktor Frankl (Holocaust survivor)
Want to learn more?
Join me for a 3 Week Beginners Introduction to Mindfulness Course.
Check out the courses page for details of the next upcoming course…