So What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness is the awareness of what is going on within your mind and body or outside in your environment in the present moment, without judgement, simply accepting what is. It is the ability to still the mind, or at least to slow it down for a period of time. Being, not Doing. It is one of the most helpful and healthful outcomes of meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation is the process by which we can reach that awareness, even for a very short time.
Why is it worth doing? – if we can slow down the constant tumult of our thoughts (it is estimated we have 70,000 thoughts a day - Laboratory of Neuroimaging at the University of Southern California, cited by Bob Stahl) and focus on the only two consciously changeable elements of the Stress Response (breathing and muscle relaxation), we can reduce the levels of the stress hormones racing round our bodies, reduce the pressure on our hearts, lower our blood pressure, sleep better, work more efficiently and calmly, altogether be nicer people to be around! And that’s just for starters!
There are numerous practices to get you there. Practice makes for …. Well, if not perfection, at least a moment’s peace in our noisy lives.
How to get there? Through paying full attention to something in the present moment, either internal or external. The simplest starting point is the breath, the background to all of life. If we are not breathing, we are not alive. The miracle of breath goes largely unnoticed, but it is our fundamental vitality. Inspire to be Inspired.
We can also pay attention to eating mindfully, listening to music mindfully, noticing the sounds around us mindfully – being IN THE MOMENT.
So much of our time is spent in thinking and feeling about either the past or the future, and sometimes behaving in unhelpful, reactive ways out of those thoughts and feelings. Here are some of the ways we can stress ourselves out with our thoughts and feelings:
Catastrophising about something we fear might happen: we might be playing the ‘what if’ game: what if x happens, what if I fail at y, what if I’m not good enough at z? What if … ? What if … ? What if … ?
Blaming – we might be blaming ourselves or others for something that happened. When we are blaming something/someone other than ourselves, we give away our power to effect change.
Rehashing – going over and over something that happened sometime, often trying to figure it out – why did I/they do that?
Rehearsing – practising over and over for something in the future. Positive preparation can be very helpful. But if we are going over and over what might happen with a negative mindset ("if she does that I will have to quit my job and that would be terrible”), we add to our load of stress.