Every time we’re able to respond rather than react, the result will be better.
How many times have we looked back and seen how a situation could have turned out so much better for ourselves and others if we had been a bit more mindful in the moment of our motivation, intentions and the feelings of others?
Mindfulness is a real buzz word at the moment. But, of course, it’s an ancient practice; it’s been around a while. Mindfulness helps us to bring more of ourselves into the present, into the moment; to slow our minds down a bit. And the more we practice it, the more mindful we become. We change the outcomes for the better. We learn to respond to what’s happening not just react.
Everything we do, every decision and interaction, affects us as individuals and those around us. By being mindful, it’s easier to think about and determine the conditions we’re setting up for ourselves, our lives and for our relationships with other people.
Mindfulness is a level of awareness achieved through practice. When we practice mindfulness we create the conditions that allow the mind to accept and be aware of itself in the present moment. As we continue to practice, this level of awareness extends from our own thoughts, feelings and intentions to the feelings of others and our environment, increasing beneficial qualities such as kindness, empathy, compassion, tolerance – as well as skills such as listening, concentration, recall and problem solving.
Mindfulness enables us to come from a deeper, more mature place. It helps us be more focused, less irrational. It calms us down. Gives us space to breathe.
It can sound a bit abstract to people who haven’t practiced it before and to all of us with increasingly busy lives. But, simple changes are often all it takes. Here are some simple mindfulness exercises that you can dip into. You may even want to build them into your everyday schedule.
Remember to breathe
It sounds obvious, but when we’re stressed we really do forget to breathe. When we’re finding something tough, perhaps a conversation we don’t want to have, a job we hate, or a deadline we don’t think we can reach, our breathing changes. Perhaps we hold our breath; we interrupt it; we breathe too quickly or too slowly, from our chest rather than our stomach. The result? We increase our stress levels; we may begin to feel anxious. In fact, this type of breathing can trigger hyperventilation and panic attacks. So take a few deep breaths to regulate your breathing and then try to do the task whilst being aware of the breath. Don’t try to change anything… notice… breathe and slow the mind.
How are you feeling?
Our minds can often feel as though they have a life outside of our control, as they move frenetically from one feeling or experience to another. Often we only realise how we feel when we slow down. At which point, we reach for the nearest thing that makes us feel better, in the hope that it will block that feeling out for a while. But feelings are impermanent…they pass. However, good or bad in that moment, it’s worth remembering…those feelings will change. Noticing how we feel as we go through life allows us to feel more fully alive. Learn to embrace these feelings rather than trying to pretend they’re not there. In the longer term there’s more of a risk of them taking over or coming out inappropriately.
So how can we begin to embrace them? It’s simple:
Neil is a former Buddhist monk who has been practicing and teaching meditation for 25 years.