Do you ever find that you’ve arrived at your destination only to realise you don’t really remember getting there? Or have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went in for? Or maybe you’ve been in conversation with someone and realised you haven’t heard a word they have said? ……Sound familiar? Your body is doing one thing and your mind is somewhere else. Well mindfulness starts when we become aware of this tendency to be on automatic pilot much of the time, and the decision to practise bringing yourself back into the present moment.
Sounds simple!….Well in theory it is, but in practise it can take commitment as we have often spend a large percentage of our lives living in this way, and it can take perseverance to shift this.
Why bother?……Well, being on automatic pilot sounds fairly harmless doesn’t it, but in reality it is in this state that we can find ourselves reacting rather than responding to stressful situations. When we step out of automatic pilot and come back to the present we can gain a wider perspective on our whole experience and this gives us more control over our decisions and moods.
In mindfulness meditation we practice becoming aware of our everyday life and of how it unfolds for us moment by moment. We start by simply noticing our breath and how it moves in our body. We cultivate the attitude that the breath and body is an anchor, a place that we can return to if we are presented with unpleasant feelings or situations. This is done with a non judgmental attitude. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said “Oh I can’t meditate, my mind is too busy, I can’t stop it”. Mindfulness meditation is not about ‘stopping thoughts’ it is about shining a light on them and witnessing this tendency for the mind to be full of all sorts of thoughts. It is about exploring the universality of the wandering mind. As once we become aware of the content of our thoughts we can be more discerning and are far less likely to get caught up in negative thinking or ruminating.
The added benefit of this type of training is that it allows us to experience the joy in our lives much more fully also. Cultivating mindfulness can also change our experience of activities in our lives that we may label as mundane. Learning to meditate can have an effect on our perception of events and we may find ourselves in a state of awe and wonder at things that simply went unnoticed before.