Some time ago a friend asked "What does Mindfulness do for you?" I wasn't expecting the question and so to put it as succinctly as possible from my own experience, said "It fosters a sense of quiet on the inside, while at the same time being fully engaged in the different aspects of my life in a way that is satisfying, solid and content . And when life gets a bit fraught or overwhelming (as it does for all of us) I know how to 'come back home' to myself and begin again! It takes practice no doubt and it's worth it.
What happens? Mindfulness shows us to be aware of what is happening in our body and mind as it is happening, non-judgementally. Instead of running around on automatic pilot, where your mind is in one place (yesterday or next year) and your body in another (driving the car) you are fully in the moment, awake, aware, vibrant and alive.
Mindfulness and Meditation may seem passive but being mindful is a radical act. To be aware and in the moment for more that 5 seconds can seem impossible. We default very quickly to auto-pilot where the mind races and we end up acting out old habits that no longer benefit our well-being. Mainly because we don't have any other habits in place of the old ones and default back to them. Being mindful means that our default is coming home to our quiet inner wisdom and taking action or non-action from our wise mind.
It's not difficult, we just need to practice and embody it.
The practice of Mindfulness and Meditation allows you to slow down inside when everything around you may be frantic. You remind yourself of who you are and your actions are authentic.
The practice shows a way to:
Foster inner calm and a strong sense of self
Maintain good mental and physical health
Helps focus and decision-making
Enhance physical and mental health and well-being
Improves relationships, especially the relationship with yourself
Sandcastles Young children are naturally Mindful. If you've ever watched a young child build a sandcastle, they are totally focussed on the task at hand. One moment they are overjoyed at their masterpiece, then if someone knocks their sandcastle, they wail and cry and then, hey presto... they're on to the next thing. They are authentic and life is a natural flow.
As we grow older it seems this natural flow gets interrupted and our life is punctuated here and there with Mindful experiences, perhaps taking a walk in the forest, engaged in an interesting work project, playing sport, listening to music, times when we feel engaged and connected. Mind and body in the same place. As we grow older we have to retrain our brain to be more mindful on a daily basis. Body and ind in one place.
The good news is, retraining is possible. It just takes practice, commitment, and a little time to attend to yourself. Then, rather than the tendency to be on automatic pilot or running on a hamster wheel, you know how to self-calm, self-regulate and how express yourself with ease and authenticity.
The Science. Imagine, with a little daily discipline we can positively change the structure of our brain. Science has shown that after eight weeks of Mindful Meditation, grey matter in areas of the brain associated with stress, fight and flight reduces and in areas of the brain associated with calm, ease, focus, well-being, and decision-making grey matter is increased.
It's pretty amazing that we have it within us to change the structure of our own brain. That with Mindfulness and Meditation we can empower ourselves to better mental and physical health, that we can breathe and live a little more lightly.