All that Mindfulness means is being present for your life. When you’re mindful, you know what’s actually happening right now without getting lost in the stories and drama our mind is continually creating. Often, we aren’t even aware that we are ‘driven unconsciously’ by the story our mind is telling us. The first step in Mindfulness is to become aware…
What Participants of Courses Say…
“I realised a lot… about small things that will make a big difference in my life – that I am not my thoughts, how to connect to what’s really going on in me, how to cultivate stillness and calm and how to tap into my creativity. I am finding glimpses of joy in the most ordinary things… the light, my son, nature. Silence opens everything up and I feel I have reconnected with my core self.” – MBSR participant
1. Changes Mindfulness Makes – it teaches us to stay Present, or on-task
We ground ourselves in actual experience or Being Present and conscious and wake up from confusion. We notice how much attention wanders and how often we operate on ‘automatic pilot’. We practice coming back to the breath, each time we notice the mind wandering. There are a couple of reasons why this returning to the breath is so effective. Physiologically, when we place our attention on the breath, it automatically slows and deepens. This stimulates the vagus nerve, activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This lowers stress, reduces heart rate and blood pressure, and calms you down. Psychologically, when you intentionally move your attention to the breath, you break free of the ‘story in the head’ and are fully in the present.
Your attention needs to be in the past to ruminate; to worry, you need to be in the future. However, when you are fully in the present, you are temporarily free from rumination and worry. That’s like letting go of a lot of angst even for a couple of seconds, giving yourself some mental and emotional rest and a chance to re-balance. For decades, sports people have understood the importance of being able to intentionally reset body and mind; it is how they can sustain high performance for long periods.
2. Changes Mindfulness Makes – you break free of habitual negative patterns of thought and emotion…
When you are present and aware, you step back and see thoughts and feelings as they arise rather than being sucked into the content.
Seeing clearly and naming our disturbing mind states as they arise, “oh, this is fear” or “my mind is really agitated right now”, “there is boredom there” is actually the first step in weakening the power of negative thinking patterns which sabotage us.
When we stay present and observe these thought/feeling patterns clearly, we’re not feeding them by either getting lost in the story or blaming ourselves for having them. We notice that they come uninvited. We don’t choose to let rage in or anxiety or confusion. They just appear and change like the Irish weather. So, it does not make sense to blame and judge ourselves harshly.
When we see all of our difficult mind and heart states simply as strongly conditioned patterns of thinking that we have been practicing all of our lives, we shine the light of awareness on them.
“I am so glad I found this course. It has already changed my life! Just everyday things like home and family relationships, my work, how I see and relate to myself, how I spend my free time… Before, I was impatient. I missed so much and mis-understood even more. Now, I stop, settle myself and savor the ‘precious moments’. The daily practice has fostered a calmness and peace of mind in me that is new.” Feedback from participant – MBSR / MBCT Course
3. Changes Mindfulness Makes – you act skillfully instead of reacting impulsively…
We notice the mind continually trying to pull our attention into the stream of thought. We practice just staying aware of a thought as a thought (mental event like a cloud) and let it pass and choose to maintain attention in the body / with the breath. We do not react to thoughts/feelings with fear or judgment (which only strengthens them more) and we begin to notice that they loose their power over us. We realise that thoughts come and go and we don’t take them so seriously or personally.
I learned how to put distance between cause and reaction, I can now stop and breath and choose my response. I’m not striving and list making, if things don’t get done, no problem! I learned self compassion and the skills to breath and relax. Loved every minute of the Mindfulness course.” – MSC participant
4. Changes Mindfulness Makes – you develop a gratitude attitude…
Mindfulness attunes us to notice more and be unconsciously driven less. This transforms our moment by moment experience completely…
As we are wired for survival rather than for happiness our ‘default’ mode is to give more attention to things that trigger our ‘threat’ system rather than positive experiences. We notice how the mind is always scanning for problems. The problem is that we tend to find what we look for. The practice of: Seing the good and a gratitude attitude is necessary if we wish to be happy and optimistic. We reverse out default tendency and incline towards appreciation…
Where attention goes, energy flows
We remember to do what we love; what truly brings us alive and is important to us. This is key to developing a ‘glass half full’ attitude – we lean into gladness, friendliness, gratitude, generosity, kindness and notice the heart lift, the lightness in our bodies, the spaciousness in our minds that results.
Why not try and test this for yourself?
Powerful Course! I feel like I have woken up from a coma and am seeing everything – myself and the whole world with new eyes” – MSC participant
5. Changes Mindfulness Makes – you connect with a deeper sense of self
Being in a state of alert awareness enables us to sense and appreciate the aliveness pervading our bodies and the life all around us. We discover the stillness and spaciousness inside and reconnect with our essence deeply. It feels powerful, like coming home, not to “the story of me” but a deeper dimension. This frees us from believing our personal history is who we are. We realise that we are bigger, spacious awareness.
6. Changes Mindfulness Makes – Present for our work, present for our life…
As John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
By bringing our attention to the present moment, mindfulness re-activates the natural wonder and awe innate in all of us. We discover the sublime in the ordinary. We notice how good it is to be alive, to have a job, to be able to work and live in a peaceful environment… to walk down the street. Participants of courses affirm this over and over. They wake up to the preciousness of their lives and are more motivated to work and live wholeheartedly with invigorated energy and purpose.
Mostly, we miss the richness because we rush past it, “with more important things on our minds”!!! But, when we take time, work and life become more meaningful and fulfilling. Everything comes more alive.
Words cannot express how much your wonderful teaching has enriched my life. I am looking at everything with new eyes and have a huge appreciation for life and living. You truly have a gift in the kind and compassionate manner you deliver your training. – MBSR participant
This post was written by Joanne O’Malley and it was first published at Mindfulness at Work.
Joanne O’Malley will explore more about the topic of Mindfulness at Work on August 16 @ 9:30 am – 4:30 pm at The Emmaus Centre.