By Mita Mistry
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Being Peace
Isn’t it amazing that mindfulness, an ancient Buddhist practice used by monks in temples set in luscious forests is taking the world by storm? It’s true, Google has an entire dedicated area for employees to practice mindfulness, large city firms are recommending it to stressed executives to manage pressures of the modern urban jungle and even schools are adopting the practice to help children concentrate.
Mindfulness is buzzing and everywhere, used by Hollywood stars like Goldie Hawn and Meg Ryan to elite athletes to improve performance. It is a form of meditation to bring your awareness to the present moment by paying attention to your thoughts or feelings without judgment. It means you are right here, right now fully alert and present, you are not living in the past and not creating “what-if” scenarios that may never happen. In this precious moment, you will come off autopilot as you experience clarity of what is actually happening in your life. This is the key to happiness as it helps you to enjoy life and respond to events calmly bringing you personal growth and healing. Other health benefits of mindfulness as proven by scientific research include reduced stress levels, improved sleeping patterns, better concentration from improved cognitive flexibility and emotional regulation as a direct result of practicing kindness to self and others.
The beauty of mindfulness is you can do it as you go about your daily life. Try this exercise to start with for a minute; Sit in a comfortable upright position, with your senses notice what you are seeing, hearing and feeling. Feel your breath and air against your skin. Your mind will drift out of the present so you need to keep bringing it back to your breath. It is bringing your mind back to the present that is fundamental to the practice of mindfulness. Never judge or criticise your mind for drifting away, just bring it back to your breath, kindly and gently.
If you are feeling distracted or struggling to concentrate try this exercise for mental clarity and creating space for creativity. Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment. Return to your awareness on your breath or mantra. Do this for five minutes, you will feel calmer and focused.
When you are feeling physically drained by tension or rushing try this practice. Take a few minutes to scan your body from head to toe. Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment breathe fresh air and let them pass. This short practice will give you awareness of how you feel and help you to listen to your body to know when self-care is required.